Falling in Love with Learning

When learning loses appeal, it also loses effectiveness.

Learning is so much more than "school"!

Studies show that we remember only:

But when learning is ACTIVE—when we...

  • experience something for ourselves,
  • enact a simulation or dramatic presentation
  • or share with others what we've learned...

Too often we take exciting skills and topics and turn them into boring school courses by processing all the life out of them.

We remove them from their environment, isolate and analyze them, chop them into segments we think we can manage in a 30-minute lecture with a follow-on workbook assignment, and present what was once a lively and vibrant topic like so much canned tuna.

Traditional education is, by nature, compartmentalized.

It has to be.

Large numbers of children are intended (at least ideally) to progress along an assembly line of preparation (and, in some cases, indoctrination) at a pace similar to peers of their same age.

Knowledge is compressed, segmented, and presented in an environment that is completely separate from the real world where students will use that knowledge.

Traditional school is a laboratory, if you will. We hope that what is learned there will eventually translate into practice. But even the tests administered in traditional schools have little direct application to the real-life situations that will one day test students' true abilities.

As a result, many students learn in isolation—disconnected from life.

They are like children growing up in large cities who have no idea that beef comes from cows, that chickens lay eggs, and that applesauce is made from juicy red apples that grow on trees.

They've never seen a farm.

They've only seen grocery stores and fast food joints. For them, applesauce comes from plastic containers, eggs come in cartons, and beef comes from McDonald's.

This helps us to understand why so many children whine, "Why do I have to learn this? When will I ever have to know this?"

They have not yet experienced the real world where the skills they are learning will become useful.

The connections between knowledge and real life are broken.

Learning in isolation from real experience is like trying to enjoy a concert by listening to a poor-quality reproduction of a recording.

Whether you listen to the recording on your old turntable or spend big bucks on the latest digital player, the recorded music can never equal the live performance—the experience of sitting in the acoustic hall, eyes closed, while the music swirls around you and your heart thrums to the beat of the percussion.

If our goal were to inspire a child to love music and to do the hard work of practicing an instrument, which experience is more likely to produce the desired results?

If our goal is to inspire our children to love knowledge and learn eagerly, are we more likely to achieve that goal by introducing them to the real world or by compelling them to study a second-hand imitation from textbooks?

Experience has impact.

When we give our children experiences that inspire a memory that has emotions attached, we touch their minds and also their hearts.