children's education

I am now officially the cool fun aunt that apart from appearing to have an unlimited supply of stickers has the “really big wall you can draw on”. These are four of my little nieces and nephews, which are that in spite of me being an only child. They are of course my friends’ kids (who now hate me a little bit for showing these guys that painting on walls is an actual possibility). On the day I took this picture, their parents, my hubby, the kids and I were barbecuing outside, our dog was eating all the potato chips the kids were leaving behind, it was just a great fun Sunday barbecue. Towards the end of the day I took them into my studio and gave them a box of colored chalk. They were mesmerized and each got in front of the wall to start drawing. The oldest one arranged the space each of them would have, he explained, and they all started drawing.

I learned a lesson that day, one you don’t learn in classrooms since you’re teaching the same age group at any given time, they were all doing their own thing, in their own way, and lots was going on. Not because of their age or physical development, but because of their preferences, their personality, because of the effect the presence of the other kids was making on them, and because all I told them was “here’s some chalk… go nuts, do whatever you want”. This wasn’t an experiment by any means, I just wanted these guys to have fun, but what happened was very unique! The boy to the left (the oldest, about 5 years old) was trying to draw the human skeleton and was very focused on the height of the wall and how far up he could draw on it. The second boy was very concerned about what others were doing while he continued to draw on the board without looking at his own work, but trying to focus on the other drawings and the movement. The third boy was completely obsessed with drawing and then erasing, and was also the first to notice that you were supposed to draw on the black part of the wall but that the white part of the wall was something different (and he’s 1!). The little girl to the right was entirely focused on the different kinds of chalk and how the colors were different from one another. Four kids, four completely different experiences by just drawing on a board at the same time. None of them were trying to copy each other which is very typical, or what I was doing (yes, I was drawing too of course!), they were simply in the zone doing their own thing.

It got me thinking, what happens when we leave education (at least parts of it) in the hands of the children themselves? Well, I’m not an expert, but here’s education scientist Sugata Mitra explaining just that. You HAVE to watch this video! I thought it was so beautiful and special that I felt like sharing it with you guys today.

At the end of the day the four of them left with star stickers on their hands (as did I) and I was left with this amazing photo and a little bit of insight. What are your thoughts on this? Any mammas, papas or teachers in the crowd?

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