Friday, October 12, 2012

Moving Learning Out

I know that one of the next big steps in education is greater outward movement of learning.  It has already started, and I've read many posts by educators who outline their community-based learning endeavors. One post by Lyn Hilt stands in my mind where she outlines her school's collaboration with a local nature preserve.

What does it mean to move learning out?  It means that a generous percentage of student learning is done in the field whether that be the school's grounds, local community centers, area businesses, museums, parks, historic societies and other places.  Moving education out also includes bringing education in by the use of traveling museum programs, theater presentations and cultural enrichment events.

Traditionally this was known as the field trip or special event, but when you consider the typical field trip or event, the greatest learning is probably the exposure.  Yet, there is often little depth.  By truly moving education out, we will be activating project/problem base learning with technology and other tools to learn onsite, or we will be hosting experts from the field in our school houses real time or via Google hangouts, Skype and other venues.

Yesterday, we hosted a wonderful animal adaptation program from the Boston Museum of Science Traveling Scientist Program.  The expert visitor shared deep scientific evidence, models, animal examples and presentation sophistication.  As a teacher, I found the Museum's presenter to be a teacher to me. I watched carefully the way she used technology to keep the presentation fluid and targeted to students' needs. I was impressed with her use of scientific language, story telling, animation, animals and inquiry.  For one hour, she captivated an audience of 50 elementary school students.

To plan this somewhat simple in-house event was a multi-hour endeavor--much longer than it needs to be, but currently school structure is not set up well to promote active on-site inquiry or the use of experts.  Funding channels are often not set up for this kind of endeavor requiring countless hours of collecting money from families, writing grants or finding other creative ways to finance an event.  Often, this kind of learning is not on the forefront of leaders' agendas, hence it's left up to a collaborative groups' inspiration and after hours work.

A couple years ago I wrote a Zoo-School grant to support this kind of learning. The grant was not funded and I didn't have the time to seek out support for all the components.  This year I rewrote the grant to support only one aspect of the original plan as I knew I didn't have the time to plan or lead the original endeavor, and I hope to move forward in a step-by-step direction towards greater on-site learning.

Like any good learning strategy, the start is usually rocky and time consuming, however, at this juncture in the education road, I want to encourage schools and educational organizations to work towards more efficient funding channels, time for planning and preparation for these events, and greater use and analysis of on-site learning. This is one way to break down the "factory walls" of the education system we know, and build a vibrant learning community and environment for all.