What happens when you ask children what they want to learn? Possibly, months of dolphin discovery or a complete agricultural adaptation of the pop-smash Gangnam Style, complete with choreographed dance moves, called “Oh, Potato Style.”
Last week I had the incredible honour of being invited to the “Making Learning Visible” workshop hosted by the dedicated Early Learning team at Brentwood Park Elementary in Burnaby.
I was immediately distracted upon arrival by several different invitations for play and art set up for us around the room– and the mouth-watering aroma of oven-fresh pizza.
The workshop brought together educators looking to step outside the traditional teaching methods they have practiced for so many years and steps towards a child-centred pedagogy. It was clear how excited, and nervous, they were talking about how to involve students more directly in teaching and learning decisions. And even challenging the labels they place on themselves and the children. Instead of teachers and students, why not explorers and guides? Gardeners and chefs? Or as in Priscilla Yap’s classroom – ninjas and zombies?
When we got a chance to visit Jessica’s Kindergarten classroom and Priscilla’s Grade One class, these educators hard work was so evident. There were many different activities going on at once but the spaces felt calm and happy. The children had as many questions for me as I had for them and were eager to show me around.
In Priscilla’s class I felt my hand being taken and before I knew it, two lovely ladies had led me to a dark corner and my hand was being coated with a glue-stick. I was then led further into the darkened area to the black light to see my glowing hand and receive a lesson on bioluminescence.
I got a first-hand glimpse at our Natural Pod table in it’s element – covered with sticks and paints and children, some creating play spaces underneath, some using the benches as tree branches. Tree Branch blocks were giant gates guarded by trucks from monster warthogs.
Each moment in these classrooms, I felt that I was the one learning. It was beyond inspiring to be included in these conversations where educators are taking the initiative to re-examine their teaching philosophies, bringing their spaces in as the third teacher, and learning to trust that listening is their greatest teaching tool.