Just do it…
The book I’m currently absorbed by is “Truck: A Love Story” by Michael Perry. It documents, among other things, a year spent fixing up his old International pickup truck that has spent the last few years rusting away in his driveway. What’s most enjoyable about Perry’s writing is the sheer passion he conveys for the art of “doing” things. Evidently a life long learner, Perry lives out Dewey’s contention that “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
I see a passion for learning by “doing” as an integral part of what makes the May Term activities work so well. This doing might entail fixing up a bike, designing and lining a soccer field, sewing a blanket, making soap, writing a poem or hiking the Superior Trail.
An educator friend recently pointed me in the direction of a soon to be published book on the topic of valuing hands-0n learning. Matthew B. Crawford has written a book entitled “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.” He makes the case that in a world of AP classes and standards driven curriculum, we are in danger of devaluing the ability to fix things, to solve mechanical problems, to craft with ones hands. The New York Times recently published an essay drawn from his book entitled The Case for Working With Your Hands.
May Term offers up a flexible, project-based schedule that can remind us of how valuable it is to learn this way. One session even involves the grand project of fixing up a Mississippi riverboat. Led by Annie, this project is supported by Mary Jo and Peter Hark who just happen to have a riverboat that needs some work out at their farm. The students involved in this project spend each day out at the Hark’s farm learning about riverboats from experts, studying the Mississippi, reading Mark Twain and actually working on repairing the boat. I don’t know how you measure what is happening here, certainly not with a standardized test of any sort, and yet we still know that the most authentic learning is taking place.