What they came up with has us all rethinking what education should look like.
As many parents are grappling with the questions of how school can continue in response to the coronavirus pandemic, new conversations are happening about what education can look like. For some families, these conversations have already been happening — no pandemic needed.
As many parents grapple with the questions of how school can continue in response to the coronavirus pandemic, new conversations are happening about what education can look like. For some families, these conversations have already been happening –no pandemic needed.
Imagine we took a sledgehammer to taupe concrete block walls (a la Property Brothers), tore down that drop ceiling, and crashed through the foam boards … What if we opened the classroom up to the world?
COVID-19 has given us all a lot to think about—heck, too much to think about. But, it’s also been a chance to challenge some of the institutions we take for granted.
We asked four Phoenix parents to join us in the backyard, have a bite to eat, and spend a little time doing something adults don’t get to do much anymore: imagining.
Here’s the prompt we gave them: “If you could build a school specifically for your kids, what would it look like?”
The answers were tame at first, but after a few minutes, they opened up and were ready to invent a whole new way of learning. It was enough to inspire anyone … certainly enough to bring up some real questions about how we’re doing education now.
School often involves a lot of time indoors. It’s as if the walls and doors of the classroom signal a cue to be in “learning mode” indoors and a separate mode outside. But what happens when that barrier is broken down?
It could probably do wonders, one mom says. She emphasizes the freedom to learn in “both indoor and outdoor spaces.” If they’re getting restless, she says, they can go outside and let out energy. Or even if they’re not restless, she adds.
Another parent chimes in, “It would be in the forest … 16-foot sliding doors they can open up or close.” An environment with water to provide a soundtrack of natural, “soothing noises,” he says. “Not a clock.”
Replacing the buzz of fluorescent lights with natural forest sounds? In the actual forest? Sounds pretty magical.
Variety & Engagement
Environment is just one—albeit an important—aspect of the dream school-building process. The teachers who help students navigate that setting is just as important.
“One of the things you hear a lot about is the teachers,” one dad says about the current standard educational model. His point not necessarily being that anything is wrong about the teachers themselves, but that there’s a lack of variety in the avenues for facilitating learning.
The other parents agree. They discuss how teaching is not just about talking at students, but about engaging them with something different on an ongoing basis.
This can look like going to art museums, symphonies, or outside field trips depending on student interests or current lesson plans.
Not Only Breadth, but Also Depth
The parents also agreed that in addition to the teacher/educator presence, there also should be a constant mentor type, and specialized role models available for career or interest tracks.
So if students want to learn about architecture, “bring in an architect,” one mom says. Students would still be taking the necessary courses, but also have someone showing them how to do it hands-on.
“When stuff like this happens at school, like out of the box, with my kids … they come home like ‘Oh my god, mom! We did this today!” one mom explains.Phoenix Mother
“When stuff like this happens at school, like out of the box, with my kids … they come home like ‘Oh my god, mom! We did this today!” one mom explains.
“They’re engaged,” the other parents add.
Or as one dad puts it,
“Their mind’s blown.”