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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Considering the Best Measure for Quality Education

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The other day a neighbor visited me while I was working in the garden. She wanted to talk about the changes occurring at the local school. Comparing the education she and her husband received with that her children were receiving, she had determined that they were getting an excellent education. Both parents were pleased their children were learning “so much more” than they had.

I had to agree with my friend, that, we most often use this standard of measurement for our children’s schooling. I certainly did when my children were young. But is this the best measure for quality in education? I asked the neighbor to consider how the world had changed, in the time since she was in school, and the amount of information we and our children have at our finger tips. It seems reasonable to assume that our children would, and should, be learning a great deal more of the information that took us years to assimilate. For the most part, our children begin school having access to more information than their parents had. By the time a child has completed one year of schooling that information has almost doubled. When I was in school it took many years for information to change. That provided me and those of my generation a certain consistency with learning information that is not available today. Therefore, I’m not certain that the same paradigms for learning, that served my neighbors and me, are adequate for today’s student.

Unfortunately, I do not have an easy answer for what should be or could be. I do know that when I hear about educators who continue to teach they way they have for many years, it concerns me. I have seen wonderful teachers who are very good with their students, but who are missing the mark in preparing their students for this fast paced world. That human aspect is so very important to teaching, but what of the child who does not receive adequate information to be successful in ensuing years. What a dilemma it raises for those of us who work with these well intentioned people on a daily basis. The tried and true paradigms of the past, that served us well, that prepared our youngster for a successful future, are not adequate today. We all have to try harder to challenge our own methods of educating and of evaluating schooling.

Learning in the Dirt

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Watering SeedlingsThis spring I am taking a cue from our students, who know that learning opportunities are everywhere.  In Colorado, home of e-Tutor headquarters, the sun has been shining and folks are starting to crowd local gardening centers; I am no exception.  I’ve recruited my two year old daughter Carson to learn some more about gardening along with me.  Parents, I encourage you to do the same; students, tell your parents it’s time to get dirty.

Last year, I experimented with an aquaponics system in my home (more on this later) and a few plants grown in a tiny planter behind our townhouse.  We were able to enjoy fresh zucchini, yellow squash, and basil, but not much else, since my skills are still lacking.  Even with the limited selection, it was really satisfying to see Carson watch food grow in her own back yard at such a young age.

We also started a compost pile last year, which Carson has helped contribute to since.  She likes to keep her mother and I company in the kitchen as we cook, and helps put egg shells, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and other compostables into the pile each meal.  This year she’s been able to see what that turns into: beautiful nutrient rich soil that we can now use to grow more food.

My goal this year is to expand the vegetable selection a bit, with plans to add peppers, jalapenos, eggplant, soybeans (Carson loves edamame), spinach, potatoes, scallions, cilantro, carrots, lettuce, and a few others to the trio I enjoyed last year.

Carson has helped amend our lousy Colorado soil with compost, played with some worms, turned some seeds into seedlings, and sown other seeds directly into the planter outside.  She also feeds the fish in our aquaponics system on a daily basis.  While she’s not quite ready for botany or biology lessons quite yet, she asks a lot of questions and is clearly learning about quite a few things:

  • caring for and nurturing the living
  • where food comes from
  • where worms live
  • why sun and water are important

For those of you with older children, the learning possibilities are endless.

By the way, if you’re not familiar with aquaponics, you may want to take a look.  It’s a fascinating system that pairs plants with fish, and in many cases, produces edible varieties of both.  Many educators are using aquaponics in the classroom and in the home to teach facets of biology.  If you’re interested, I’d recommend The Aquaponic Source to help get you started.  Founder Sylvia Bernstein personally got me off and running and is a wealth of knowledge in the subject.

Though it’s still very early in the gardening season here, Carson and I have had a chance to learn quite a bit, and more importantly, have had some great father-daughter time together in the sun and dirt.  I look forward to more of the same as we approach summer and beyond.

Get on out there and play in the dirt!  You may learn something – I certainly did.  If any of you are doing some gardening of your own already, share what you’re learning with the rest of us in the comments!