The Learning Experience – A different way to school …

This post was sent to me by Nicola Claire, who is running a school in Istanbul and advises we_school. With Nicola I share my thoughts on how to build a “matrix curriculum” for we_school. Traditional curriculum combined with “out of school” ways of learning re-integrated into it. This is her second post on the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project.

Take a group of rural Indian children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, who have no formal schooling, and present them with a project-based learning scenario. You might expect to get at the very least blank faces, and at worst some not very polite language.

But not when the project is to build your very own skateboard!

From the get go you have their attention. And then, when you go on to explain that you have no resources to give them, and they have to go and find everything they need themselves, an excited discussion ensues.

But, first things first…

  • What exactly is a skateboard?
  • To what uses could it be put apart from skating?
  • How big/small could it be to still work?
  • How heavy does it need to be to stop it tipping constantly?
  • How big do the wheels needs to be and what happens if you put more or less than four wheels on?

By now the group is totally engaged and coming up with many more questions.
As a group they discuss and generate ways to solve the problems, and chalkstone on a wall serves for a design space. Some of the suggestions are:

  • Recycling for materials
  • Extra wheels
  • Large wheels
  • Dog powered
  • Two skateboards strapped together to provide a wide carrying platform

And many more are discussed.

After the discussion, there is the making, engaging with maths, hand-working, crafting and constructing. Before, finally, the finishing artwork, personal logo and then the testing.
The group of young people have worked their way through a project-based learning that any teacher would be happy to put their name to.

Sure, they had the guidance of a teacher, but she kept her input to a minimum, encouraging the young people to be constantly challenging themselves for answers.
The project might last anything from a week, if the group turn-up every day, to a month or more if they are only meeting together a couple of times a week.

The learning they have made is a secure lifelong learning across a range of subjects, with measurable outcomes and an end goal that is functional and fun.

Children in very different environments and circumstances require learning that is relevant to them and their lives. Often this is not building based, white western European and aimed at university entrance, but local, community based and aimed at improving their, and their communities’ lives.

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