Rethinking Education

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Schools, gardens and a real education

Usually in February my thoughts begin to wander toward the joys of the upcoming spring.
School curriculums should be doing the same thing, but are not, becoming bogged down over increasing testing concerns. This sterility of the school atmosphere is a shame, because spring offers unprecedented opportunities for a real, diversified and hands-on education for all children.
They should be planting and tending to gardens instead of being stuck in testing centers.
Our planet is facing increasingly complex problems directly linked to the biology, botany and environment of the planet itself, while at the same time many children are moving away from a physical understanding of our ecosystems toward an increasingly electronic and artificial world of human making. They are becoming alienated from the physical world, which has serious negative consequences for both the planet and the child.
It is vital that children are anchored with an understanding of our physical world if that world is to not just survive, but thrive. A child and a garden is a great place to start.
A garden is a vehicle through which almost all of the sciences can be taught. The beauty of the garden is that it teaches science not in isolated realms, but as an interconnected and interlocking understanding of how the different sciences work together to make a whole view of the environmental system. Science will be learned very quickly by children because it is hands-on and, just as importantly, really, really interesting.
The excitement on a child’s face when she races out to the garden to see if her beans have sprouted yet is only matched by the pure joy when she discovers that they, in fact, have. The crushing disappointment of having dead beans because of overwatering, drought, pest invasion, soil acidity, soil salinity, lack of nutrients, not enough sun, freezing temperatures or whatever will lead to a real understanding of scientific principles. Any real teacher knows all real learning is emotion-based.
Dull and boring are the death knells of learning. Interest and excitement are the keys to quick and sustained learning in children. A garden has more drama in it than a Shakespearian play, and it’s real and it makes the experience of life on this planet real and comprehensible, which will be important for future generations to come. If you add the daily caring and tending to animals in the mix, you will have children who will race each other to get to the school house first. Think about that for a moment. Textbooks should be an adjunct to real-life learning, not the other way around. Scientists are created by enthusiasm, not knowledge, and scientists with a deep understanding of how our world works and a drive to make it better are needed now more than ever.
Contact Bill Hoatson at billhoatson@yahoo.com or visit his
website at www.