In the past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of students and dozens of parents. In talking with them I realize how lucky many students are to have a father or a mother who do engineering things in their basement, who encourages their child’s creative pursuits, who likes to build furniture or make cookies, who launches model rockets on Saturday morning or dances in the living room after dinner. Along the way these parents are there to help students develop their own identity by being curious and learning from others. Some students are finding workshops and community resources to provide a similar role. We are raising a great group of students this way but we’re missing out on a whole lot of them, too.
Education is the answer to most of the human problems facing our generation. Unfortunately education itself is a decent problem in most places. The insufficient and scarce resources available to educators are often applied incorrectly within communities that aren’t fully understood. And who’s really to blame? We continue to push a top-down approach on a strained system, adding more weight and wondering why the cracks keep expanding. Why not instead apply what we know from design, where constraint promotes innovation and simplicity drives natural growth?
Perhaps Shankar Vedantam said it best, that “when undercurrents aid us… we are invariably unconscious of them. We never credit the undercurrent for carrying us so swiftly; we credit ourselves, our talents, our skills. Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers; those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.”
Children are inherently great students; their minds are like sponges and will absorb the vocabulary and frameworks from the experiences in which they soak. This idea that children must know before they think is nonsense. We have been testing for knowledge instead of capability, we mistake product for process. In our effort to quantify and standardize, we have failed to meet students where they are and are proving ourselves ineffective motivators of lifelong learning. The question then, is how might we create natural learning opportunities through relevant community-based projects?
It’s time we start peeling back these layers, these currents, and replace them with the grassroots programs that already exist in communities today to more effectively support the next generation. Let’s give students the tools they need to build their own future.
Thank you for supporting our mission,
Philip Dirkse, Founding Director