Vail Daily column: Lifelong passion for learning
“Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. Human beings are highly curious learning organisms. From the moment they’re born, young children have a voracious appetite for learning. For too many, that appetite starts to dull as they go through school. Keeping it alive is the key to transforming education.” — Sir Ken Robinson, Educationalist.
My wife, Sarah, and I have two young children. Our son turns three next month and today is our daughter’s fourth birthday. In all my years of studying and working in the field of education, perhaps nothing has transformed my views on education more than becoming a father.
I now see firsthand that all kids come into this world filled with a natural sense of curiosity. The investigation of something new and interesting has an irresistible pull to them. Stars shining, jets landing, dogs barking — even the most routine things become fascinations and mysteries to be explored.
A trip to the grocery store with our kids is accompanied with a barrage of questions. What is this thing? How do you eat it? What does it taste like? And, invariably, can I have this?
Sadly, part of growing up is losing some of our appreciation of how truly remarkable our world is. We have busy schedules, things to do, bills to pay — sometimes we can forget how awe-inspiring this new place is for our children — and all the questions they have for us, their guides.
Fanning the flame and inspiring that natural sense of curiosity in our children is the real work of education. Genuine learning starts with natural curiosity and is accomplished through discovery, reflection, sense-making, and then more learning.
For too many of us, school was a place that actually removed some of that natural curiosity. For decades, we were taught that there was one right answer and that it was one of four possible and predefined choices provided on a standardized test. We were taught that these right answers had greater merit when they were reached working alone — in isolation of others.
Could it be that all the well-intentioned efforts we’ve made toward reforming education through standardization, obedience and a focus on individual effort have actually cost us our curiosity, our innovation and our ability to connect and work with others?
The efforts underway in our community schools reject this rote, outdated model of education. We seek to replace it with learning that nurtures natural curiosity, a sense of discovery and encourages self-directed exploration of subjects that genuinely engages our students in their own progress.
In our schools, teachers meet regularly and review what we ask our students to do in a lesson — something we call “task analysis.” We are looking to make sure that the tasks we ask our students to engage in are aligned to global-ready skills — things like problem solving, communication, being entrepreneurial, collaboration, innovation and adaptability to changing conditions.
While we must work to comply with the state and federal mandates and standards, the meaningful work for our students and our staff is in fanning the flame of curiosity in order to create a lifelong passion for learning and discovery.
As a superintendent, this is the kind of education I want for all the kids in Eagle County. This certainly includes my own children who will one day grow up to be Devils or Huskies!
Re-creating education into something that continuously ignites curiosity and a lifelong passion for learning is important work that carries beyond our happy valley — the future of our species may well depend on it.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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