As educators we assume our curricula is of course the most beneficial to our young learners. Science shows our young progenies are pre programed to learn on their own. But again, we adults are interrupting and mucking up an already perfect system.
Consider a typical preschool – the curriculum is developed by the administration, or worse yet some third party organization that has sold their “program” to the school district. The adults dictate what and how this same aged group learns. “It’s September let’s learn about apples.” The day is fraught with structured periods and forced transitions - morning meeting, craft time, circle time, bathroom, snack, stories, and then (finally) outside.
When Grassroutes first opened, that is exactly the program we had. But each year, as we became more cognizant of the science behind how children learn, we lost the structure, introduced multiple ages, and let the children direct their own learning. What has resulted is a democracy of children, where the older help the younger, the younger are mesmerized by the older, and a peaceful day unfolds.
In an age diverse, self-directed classroom there is rarely complaints or whining. Why would there be? The children are passionately absorbed in their own interests, creativity and imagination. Materials are easily shared, since different ages have different interests. The older children eagerly mentor the younger, proudly displaying advanced abilities and skills.
The power to explore, create, imagine and play is unstoppable, no matter what the conditions - even in war. Rubble and ruins become blocks, lampposts are transformed into swings, and tanks become massive climbing structures. These images illustrate that a child’s exploration of the world is internally programmed. They don’t care if we provide a playground. They will play using whatever is in their reach.
Their brains are wired to play and learn. Why do we as educators keep muddling into a world that works on its own?