“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein
A rainy summer day and Sam contemplates a two-foot versus one foot landing in a muddy puddle. Two-foot it is and mud goes flying like fireworks. Sam leaps away like a monkey to give Ava a turn. Lilly, just one, watches Ava’s every move and scuttles over to give it a try. Simply, that is Grassroutes - children of all ages playing outside and getting very dirty.
What appears to be just random fun is in fact the best education they could ever get. In those few seconds Sam was solidifying synaptic connections in his brain, regulating and toning sensory perceptions in his muscles and organs, and strengthening his immune system. At the same time a social democracy was being crafted as the group was forced to negotiate turns and roles. The young enthusiastically observed and imitated their older peers. The older took on the role of mentor and caregiver to the young. Those exchanges fostered respect and cooperation. To Sam though, he was just having fun.
As a student and a teacher, I have had the time to experience a plethora of educational modes and approaches - private and public, poor and entitled, free and expensive. Regardless, something always seemed off. What was germane to all of those experiences? Perhaps inside - monotonous - long? Learning should be carefree and passionate. Our children should be waking up and excited about the day ahead and what could be discovered. But that is certainly not happening.
The science is here. We understand how a child’s brain develops in those precious first years. As our environment becomes increasingly more sterile, we witness the surge of autoimmune diseases. Children are hypnotized by the endless technology we place in their hands, as science documents the resulting rise in obesity, sensory disabilities and anxiety.
At Grassroutes, we took the science and embraced it completely. Disregarding the status quo, we turned to history, anthropology, biology, neuroscience, sociology, and many other disciplines to understand how children learn. One by one as these proven principles were embraced in our classroom, something wonderful materialized. A family of respectful children taught, learned, negotiated, mentored and lost themselves in the passion of childhood. It was so simple.