Monday, June 15, 2009

Education through Exploration

Resources...they're what our kids need to prepare in life.

I had access to resources growing up. One of my friends reminds me that my "resources" are a direct result of my White privilege. She's right. So many kids don't have the same access I did. But it's not *just* about being White. It's a culture...a mindset. It's the way the entire community values and facilitates learning. Unfortunately, many of our communities are not nurturing education hubs. I would like to think that our After-School Academy and University of Values summer program plays a part in changing that tide in Roseland.

Last week I trained our University of Values (UV) summer staff. I asked them to imagine some times they spent outside of school and what they did.

I told them about a chemistry set my mom purchased at a garage sale. I was intrigued by the carmel "recipe" and was convinced that this chemistry set was going to allow me to make Kraft caramels. I spent a number of days outside (mom wouldn't allow the chemistry set in the house) with my test tubes and potions trying to create carmel that I could eat. (I never managed to produce edible carmel)

Brandie told about watching Super Size Me! then trying her own experiment with french fries to see how they held up over time. She was appalled at how "preserved" the french fries stayed day after day.

Other staff told about observing animals on the farm or disecting/torturing frogs when they visited relatives in the country.

Yet, as they told me these stories, they quickly added, "Nothing educational, though." Nothing educational?!?!?!?! When did "education" become synonymous with "boring"??

This summer our theme is Environment and Recycling. We have high school juniors and seniors from the ExxonMobil Green Team; we have a Mayor Intern; we have Americorps members. All are teaching kids in hopes of inspiring them to think differently about the role they play in helping/hurting our environment.

I keep encouraging them to give the kids a little information, let them ask questions, and encourage them to research and explore. We have a "Tech Genius" class that will be documenting everything this summer. I am hopeful that they will create innovative audio and visual products throughout the summer.

As we went through training, I saw lightbulbs going on as the UV Teachers figured out that learning is exciting and that learning is everywhere! However, I'm concerned that teachers have done such a great job of realizing how exciting learning can be that they're going to end up wanting to do all of the exploration instead of facilitating it with the kids!

We have great staff and a great program. The kids will be taking trips to the Landfill, the Waste Water Treatment Plant, the Museum of Science and History, University of Texas at Dallas to see how the sciences provide careers in this area, and many others. If you want to keep up with what's going on, check out their blog throughout this summer:

We hope to begin updating it soon!

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