Friday, April 15, 2011

Beyond the Basics

At Seabury, we know that learning goes far beyond rote memorization and basic skills. Foundational skills are just the launching point for exploring big ideas, making connections, analyzing information and much more. A program that encourages the development of creativity, imagination, and critical thinking allows students to take what they have learned and apply it to new situations, to innovate, to create and to reason.

In this age of educational standards, sometimes learning is reduced to what can be learned rotely and repeated – on creating students who score well on standardized tests rather than students who are thinkers and creators.

A recent article in Slate, Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire, by Alison Gopnik, points out the limitations of learning that is confined to direct instruction and rote learning. It is a great reminder of the value of the kind of learning we provide in our classrooms. Learning that promotes the development of a strong foundation of skills, but that uses those skills as a launching point for going farther and deeper, for taking learning in new directions, for promoting inquiry, and for developing creative, inquisitive minds.

One of the greatest joys of being at Seabury is seeing where our students take the material we give them. Students in fourth grade who studied revolutions in their classroom earlier this year, looking at the similarities and differences between revolutions happening currently and throughout history, nearly staged their own revolution when they felt they had been treated unjustly at a competition several of them participated in. Second grade students learning about the human body regularly use medical terms in conversation to talk about what is going on with them, or to describe what part of their brain is working on a particular activity. Preschool students who appear to “just” be building with blocks are having complex discussions about working together, engineering, transportation, and much more.

Learning in an environment that values the questions as much as the answers, that provides opportunities to go beyond the basics, that promotes exploration and discovery is at the heart of Seabury. Miracles happen every day as our students make discoveries, get excited about new ideas, and make new connections. It’s what makes our school such an exciting place to be!

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