“Flow Learning” is a cornerstone of the Education for Life
Simply stated it’s this: If you want to inspire children to learn something, love it, and retain it for future use, first find a way to awaken their enthusiasm, then guide them in focusing their attention, next, give them a direct experience, and finally, allow them to share their inspiration. In this first newsletter we will be focusing on “awakening enthusiasm.”
What better way to awaken enthusiasm than soaking up the beautiful vibrations of nature? I’d like to describe for you how some of our classes incorporate experiences in nature to inspire children and awaken their own natural love for learning.
Our school, blessed with a beautiful rural campus, offers our younger students many wonderful opportunities to play in a natural environment.
For the preschool, kindergarten and first grade, a trek to the goat dairy, one of our local ponds, or “cedar forest” one ridge away, offers just the right kind of friendly adventure. Surprising learning opportunities appear around every corner. Often the children transform even the simplest spot a few steps outside into a fairy hide-away or a secret fort. Young imaginations thrive in such an environment.
Second through sixth graders have entered the “higher adventure club.”
At the beginning of the school year, Balarama’s second and third grade class, parents included, went on a three-day backpacking trip into Grouse Ridge to experience the wonders of nature a bit farther from home. The backpackers had dehydrated their food in the classroom before-hand and later enjoyed delicious meals cooked together cooperatively. The group scaled a small peak and the children minutely explored the surrounding area as only seven and eight year olds can do.
Kathy and John’s fourth, fifth, and sixth graders backpacked 10 miles into Desolation Wilderness, a high-Sierra destination featuring stunning granite peaks and beautiful alpine lakes. On the first night, coyotes serenaded them; on the second, they enjoyed an owl concerto.
Day-time activities included constructing “mandalas” from pine needles, stones, and various other gifts of nature, and writing Haiku poems.
The jr. high and high school took separate mountain trips; the girls traveled to the Lakes Basin area and the boys to the headwaters of the Yuba River. Biking mountain roads and exploring the huge granite boulders along the river kept the boys engaged. The girls climbed the 8500-foot “look-out peak” of the Sierra Buttes and experienced the fabulous 360 degree view, lost their way on a solo hike, and happily found their way back!
All these adventures offer so much more than a fun time away from school.
Looking into the eyes of a nine year old who has just climbed to the top of Half Dome for the first time, you see incredible awe and openness. This experience has awakened the child’s enthusiasm in a way that can’t be recreated in the classroom.
So here we are in January back in the classroom, and it’s raining! How do we awaken enthusiasm now? As I sit writing this, our Chinese teacher, Sianda Lee, leads her class in a game of slap-jack. This entails counting in Mandarin as the girls each throw down a card and then slap the top of the pile when their numbers appear. Enthusiastic squeals mingle with Asian syllables. An incredible sense of joy permeates the room as the girls beg to make the game more difficult. Here in front of my eyes, I see the principle at work. From this state of awakened awareness, the next stage in “Flow Learning,” focusing attention, naturally takes place. The girls settle down and recite sentences in Mandarin.
Stay tuned in future newsletters for more information and inspiration on the next steps of Flow Learning.