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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Developing Deeper Learning Experiences: Naturalist Training

For the past many years I've been trying to develop deeper learning experiences for students. I've been trying to go beyond exposure to areas of greater problem solving, critical thinking, observation, creation, and share. I want to foster rich learning experiences for students--the kinds of experiences that are memorable, deep, engaging, and empowering.

I've reached out to many to help me in this pursuit and have gained lots of ideas. There have been a number of successful learning events in this regard, and some not so successful attempts as well.

This quote continues to lead our naturalist efforts.
One way to gain deeper learning is to have greater support when it comes to working with large groups of children, and one way to get this support is to reach out to families and high school students. Families and high school students may help to deepen the learning by enabling you to teach with many small groups, and those small groups have the potential to foster greater conversation, attention, and discussion whereas in a group of 20+ students, the time individuals get to talk to a teacher is very limited simply due to numbers. High school students are also generally magnets for young students. The young students love the attention of high school students, and when high school students make the time to care well and teach young students, they are invaluable mentors. In addition, both high school students and family members bring new voices, perspectives, and experiences to the learning which also serves to enrich students' education.

This morning, the Education Director from Drumlin Farm, will host a naturalist workshop for high school students and family members. I'm hoping that this will be one more way to deepen student learning since it will prepare high school students and family members to guide students during nature walks with knowledge and targeted learning experiences. Later, rather than bringing all the students out to the woods near our school by myself, these family members and students will help me guide the students which means more attention and care as students study the land beneath, around, and above their feet.

Learning choreography benefits from a mix of deep and less deep learning experiences. If the curriculum is too deep and serious, many students will lose interest. Yet if the learning is superficial and rarely deep, students will not have the chance to experience the value of rich learning and teaching. Our learning/teaching choreography also benefits from successful teaming, communication, and design, and those are important constructs to build into school structure and scheduling to forward that kind of memorable, impactful teaching and learning.

I'm looking forward to today's training. As with any new initiative, it's a bit daunting, but if we never try, we'll know. Let's see what happens.