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How Learning is Meant to Be

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

—William Blake
“Auguries of Innocence”

Chapter 3 of the book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker J. Palmer begins with the poem excerpt above by William Blake. Perhaps you have done it yourself — held a grain of sand or a flower in your hand, immersed with wonder about the science behind their creation, with the curiosity to learn more. You might be simultaneously thinking, “I don’t have time to explore more deeply”, even though you are fascinated by the opportunity to do so. A profound learning community is created by giving students the time and space to explore more deeply, along with the support of a teacher who is passionate about the subject and can guide students to acquire the skills to learn and grow.

Palmer argues that the art of both teaching and creating community in the classroom cannot be reduced to technique, but rather it is rooted in a passion for the topics being explored and providing students with firsthand experience of “the energy of learning and life.” Even in a pandemic, such energy has been on full display at Roycemore whether in Early Childhood or the Upper School.

Here are a few examples from the past month:

  • As part of their simple machines unit, second graders had the opportunity to experiment with fulcrums, force and load with levers. Students made hypotheses about which of two classroom items would be heavier and then conducted experiments to learn if their hypothesis was correct.
  • Pre-kindergarten students have been conducting role play of community helpers. Last week they became firefighters. They constructed their own fire trucks, wore fire hats, and worked with hoses to immerse themselves in what it might feel like to be a firefighter. In the process they built confidence, learned problem solving skills, and engaged in creative thinking.
  • Middle school students had the opportunity to Zoom with a combat veteran who shared about his experiences in Iraq in 2004-2005.
  • Upper school students are learning theatrical vocal expression techniques in their rehearsals for the Spring Play Sorry Wrong Number that will debut this Friday at 7pm!
  • Third and fourth grade students selected a famous “change maker” in the world that they wanted to learn more about and are researching them, then writing a paper about them and will ultimately “become” them as part of a “wax museum” project.
  • Middle and upper school students are engaged in a Biology “March Madness” akin to this one from National Geographic — and boy are they engaged!
  • First graders are becoming beetle experts as part of their Ancient Egypt studies by creating and building their own beetle.

The enthusiasm of the students is infectious, and the connections students are making with their teachers, their classmates and their subject are deep. This is how learning is meant to be.