Top

21st Century Learning and Resources

Richland Academy / 21st Century Learning and Resources (Page 12)

An Education for Understanding: ‘Backward Design’

William Butler Yeats so aptly once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This prominent 20th Century poet and playwright was wise to the vast difference between knowing and understanding. To simply know facts is not to understand what makes those facts knowledge. “To understand is to be able to wisely and effectively use– transfer– what we know, in context; to apply knowledge and skills effectively, in realistic tasks and settings.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 4). So how can today’s education system help students achieve this type of ‘education for understanding?’ Teachers– as collaborators and guides– must find creative ways to stimulate their students’ natural curiosities and allow them to make connections between theories, while building the skills and attitudes they will need for life-long learning. Child-centered and retrospective curricula design, combined with inquiry-based learning, will allow schools to foster authentic student learning experiences, by providing students with opportunities to engage in meaningful learning experiences; to explore, investigate, discover, collaborate and communicate with others in an experiential and ‘minds-on’ learning environment.

“The Hundred Languages of Children”

Whether you are well-versed in the Reggio Emilia Approach or new to this engaging philosophy, “The Hundred Languages of Children” (Second Edition) is a must-read for parents and educators everywhere. Assembled by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Forman, with foreword by Howard Gardner, this rich resource presents a comprehensive overview of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and practices of the city-run early childhood program of Reggio Emilia, Italy.

A Reggio Journey

According to Malaguzzi, “Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water.  Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”

Richland Academy is now entering its tenth anniversary, and comes with a history of traditional teaching.  Now three years into the transition from a traditional teaching model to a Reggio inspired approach, the wonders of this way of supporting learners is emerging.  But with it comes the challenges of bringing on board an already existing team of excellent teachers, as well as new teachers, and asking them to teach and learn through a different lens.  We are learning how to listen and how to observe the children and each other.   As we constantly reflect, we realize that our journey, although fraught with self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and the need for us to let go of our own personal egos, also brings us renewed joy in our teaching, allows for deeper creativity and is moving us all towards 21st century learning, that is based on natural inquiry and the child as a key player in his own learning.

What I Learned in Studio Today

Imagine an art room, filled with materials and tools.  An orderly ‘disorder’…there are just so many units and objects defining line, shape, color, form, motion, texture, pattern, direction, orientation, scale, angle, space and proportion!

Now imagine the room filled with young learners, 3 years of age, waiting patiently with art smocks on, seated, keenly following instructions, asked to “sit please” with hands folded in their laps, while the paint pallets, paint brushes and water cups in front of them,  beacon these tiny hands to get into the thick of it…but they do not.  The children are listening.

They are listening to the atelierista explain, a pumpkin, its stem and the vine it grows on.   The children are asked to remember the pumpkins they had begun to paint during their last Studio class.  Heads are nodding as the memory of their painting comes back to them.