NPR recently did a piece about a public school teacher in Vermont who began taking her class outside and into the forest every Monday–”Forest Monday” she called it. The teacher had no set curriculum, no agenda, and no pre-determined outcomes. The goal was simply to provide a regular, unstructured learning experience that being confined to a classroom all day could not. I encourage you to listen to the story.
The school teacher, Eliza Minnucci, said she “worries that U.S. schools have become too focused on academics and test scores and not enough on ‘noncognitive’ skills such as persistence and self-control.” She said that she “doesn’t think traditional school is set up to teach [these skills] very well” either. I couldn’t agree more.
There are myriad skills that, were we all to develop as young people, we might be better prepared for the challenges of life. Not surprisingly, you won’t find these skills among the learning areas covered in the Common Core. Where are young people learning to problem solve, manage relationships, work through feelings and emotions, and figure out who they are and who they want to be? Largely out of school for most kids, I would suggest.
At LightHouse we work to foster an environment that is more holistic, authentic, and motivating. Classes and tutorials are one part of a larger picture for teens. Daily interactions with friends, casual conversations, spontaneous games and activities, going out for a walk along the canal–they all become experiential learning opportunities much like Minnucci’s “Forest Mondays.”
Helping prepare young people to live successful and inspired lives means ensuring that they have access to a multitude of learning environments, activities, and unstructured time. It is here, beyond a prescribed curriculum, that youth truly can develop an array of skills that go far beyond content knowledge. And what better an outcome than the discovery that true learning happens everywhere, all the time?