Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Slow Schools and Slow Education - Connecting children to life

Getty images
Slow schools and slow education can refer to different aspects of education.  Some people use the term slow schools to refer to schools that are attempting to bring slow food to the cafeteria or dining room.  Schools are not happy places.

For others it has far more implications and includes aspects of connection to knowledge, tradition, moral purpose and all that is important in life.  In this sense it refers to the curriculum, the way it is delivered, the process of learning, management of the school, and even if school is the best vehicle through which to educate our children. So in this sense, it refers to bringing the slow movement into education.

Where has the education system in schools gone wrong? It started with taking the responsibility for education away from parents and families and making it compulsory for children to go to school.  While schools were accountable to the parents and community the education process had some chance of meeting students and community needs.  But where governments have acquired central authority over education, education seems to have become a matter of outcomes – standardised test results.

In many Western countries that have Anglo-Saxon origins, governments and schools have rigid control structures in place and schools are driven by standardised curricula with tests and targets to ensure uniform outcomes. The emphasis is on the outcome not on the process.  The process is about things like how are ideas conceptualised, how can we support learning and the knowing of how to learn, as well as the love of learning and investigating?

Slow education is also about connection to knowledge and to learning – real learning. It is about leading a skilful life – doing no harm – and having respect for all living and non-living things. Slow education is a concept of 'ecological literacy'. Michael Stone and Zenobia Barlow have put together a collection of authors in Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World (The Bioneers Series) to give us ways to reorient the way we live on Earth and the way we can educate our children to their highest capacities. This book is aimed at parents and educators who are engaged in creative efforts to develop new curricula and improve children's ecological understanding.

Slow education is about supporting our children to develop values and ethics that will enable them to live a joyous life in the slow lane.
The similarities of debate about Fast Food vs Slow Food and the debate about Fast Schools vs Slow Schools are self-evident upon reflection. Fast schools like fast food are not concerned with the process, preparation and connection. They are concerned with the standardised end product which in the case of schools is the results from standardised tests and targets, and in the case of food is the standardised hamburger or fried chicken etc, that look like all others the outlet churns out.

The process of education is not about supplying students with lumps of information to be regurgitated on demand. It is about enabling students to learn how to learn. It is also about giving them opportunities to hear what others have learnt (knowledge) and to then discuss, argue, and reflect on this knowledge to gain a greater understanding of its truth for them and of how this knowledge will be of use to them.

Slow Schools as part of the Slow Food movement are able to build edible schoolyards. Students are involved in all aspects of planting, tending and harvesting. Then in the classroom they prepare, serve and eat organic food, much of which they have helped to grow.

All these activities of food production, preparation and consumption (and disposal of waste) can be built into the curriculum, so that students learn through real life experiences. Incorporating slow food principles, values and practices into school curricula will help return us to a domestic food culture where people grow up learning how to grow, prepare and cook nutritious, delicious and traditional food.

Schools can go beyond slow food and incorporate other real life experiences as a way of educating students in the important (and sometimes the not so important) things in life. Maurice Holt is well known for his forward thinking approach to education. In It's Time to Start the Slow School Movement, an article By Maurice Holt[1] he advocates a backlash against the 'hamburger' approach to education. He believes that education is essentially about equipping children with the ability to act responsibly in a complex society.

This approach that uses experiential, value-oriented practices with participation at its core is not new nor is it the exclusive domain of slow schools. The most well-known schools following this approach are Montessori and Waldorf and they have been doing it for a long time. Most home schooling systems also use this approach.  It is an approach that is interlaced with moral living values and stewardship ethics.

From http://www.slowmovement.com/slow_schools.php © Copyright 2016. Thanks for sharing!

[1] MAURICE HOLT is a professor emeritus of education, University of Colorado, Denver

No comments:

Post a Comment