As I looked at higher education possibilities, I decided to go into education and become a teacher. In 1984 I went to grad school to study curriculum and teaching, and there had wonderful professors as well as great “student” teaching placements. Our classes required us to create teaching centers for various subjects and various grades, some classes (like science methodology) included weekly lab classes where we did took the role of a learner and did experiments. In my teaching placements, I was with teachers that had the kids doing things: grinding corn into meal to make corn bread, creating books to share with the younger students, making cities with blocks, etc.
When I got my first teaching job in 1986, I knew how I wanted to run my class. I created units that were interactive and would engage my students. They were also on topics that I was interested in. One example was from teaching 3rd grade. I developed a whole unit on flight; we made airplanes, kites and rockets; we wrote letters to kite companies; we collected data on how far our planes flew; we used math to measure, not only the thing we were making but did a little advanced geometry to figure out how high something was. In other years I taught kindergarten (by far my favorite grade). We had centers everywhere, as a matter of fact, I don’t remember “teaching” subjects. I could teach math in the writing center, Lego center, home center, art center, etc. I taught language in those same centers too. We taught through doing stuff. Yes we had a scope and sequence, but finding that “teachable moment” by getting kids to enjoy learning, was how I taught the curriculum.
In “Invent To Learn” Stager & Marintez say, “The Piagetian idea that ‘to understand is to invent’ (Piaget, 1976) shaped how teachers taught and how children learned” through the mid-1980s.” I imagine if you look back to how teachers were taught in the 1940’’s and 50s, it was much the same way...those were my teachers in the 1960s and 70s...the ones that allowed me to be creative in class.
So what did “we” children learn by going through an education system that let us learn by doing? What came out of the minds of the kids that were encouraged to imagine, create, and improve?
Personal computers, mobile phones, electric cars, flat-screen TV, and the World Wide Web to name a few.
Those things were created by people who learned by doing. People who made things, who often failed but who were given the chance to try again, learning from their mistakes. What about the kids in schools now? Standardized tests, state and national mandated curriculum, and very little “learning by doing” seems to be the way of the world now. What will this generation of students create if we don’t give them the opportunity to “Learn by doing”?