Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Learning:It is all about Passion!

Nigel Ogle - the man behind the Tawhiti Museum. The Tawhiti Museum, an expression of Nigels' passion, is one of the most stimulating museum experiences you will see anywhere.

Although there is a lot of talk about students needing 'future learning capacities' ( called 'key competencies' in the new New Zealand Curriculum) so as to become 'life long learners' it is important to remember that learning needs to be about something. Students interests, gifts and dreams provide the passion that drives individuals to learn more and more...forever.

Author Rebecca Priestly, in her book 'The Awa Book of New Zealand Science', conveys the excitement of science and the thrill of discovery. She writes that she was not prepared for 'the ferocious passion - often crossing the line into obsession' she found in the journals. Reading their writings she found expressions of 'intense excitement' and 'burning curiosity'; a sense of surprise and awe as they made their discoveries.

The myth of the dispassionate rational, and rather boring, scientist is far from the truth. Scientists are driven by their curiosity to explore and explain things that attract their attention. In this respect they have much in common with any two year old, except young people do not have the need to ensure their findings stands up to inspection.

The message is clear for educators, we must do everything to keep alive the curiosity and openness to learning of our students. We need to tap our students innate gifts,interests, talents and dreams and then to encourage them to dig deeper into what attracts their attention.

At the beginning of learning, and science, is curiosity, and with curiosity is the delight in mastery - the joy of figuring it out that is the birthright of every child. One scientist said to another 'What we can't tell then that it's so so much fun' A Nobel prizewinner said 'We were like children playing'. It is, as another said, 'a rage to know - the acute discomfort at incomprehension'.The so called scientific method is not as scientific as you would think and is more a process of enlightened trial and error.

If teachers were to be aware of: the importance of passion and curiosity in learning; the need to explain as best we can; and the process of science, a curriculum would 'emerge'. As well, creative teachers can provide their students experiences with the potential to attract their student's attention . As educationalist Jerome Bruner wrote, 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation'.

Back to Nigel.

In an article in our local paper Nigel says he has 'aways been interested in old things - old waggons, old tools - just the feel and character of things' As a young person he collected old things but when he took history at secondary school he was disappointed there was no New Zealand component but, when attending Palmerston North Teachers College, he met tutors really interested in history and, as importantly, interested in the arts.

During this time Nigel visited creative teachers in New Plymouth to see what he said were, 'absolutely inspirational teachers working on what was then called integrated programmes'. They were, he said, 'ground breaking' and after seeing them he said to himself,' Yeah teaching is something I could really do'.

Nigel had short but successful career as a teacher
. I had the opportunity to visit Nigel's classroom in those days and was always impressed with the stimulating programmes and environment he developed.

Nigel left teaching in 1980 to establish his museum, a museum that combined not only his deep interest in local history but also integrated his art and teaching skills.

He observed a young boy visiting his museum with his class who threw away his worksheet and 'did a runner' into the museum. Nigel followed him and found him entranced by a display of small figures of Maori in canoes. Nigel engaged the boy in an intense conversation about the display. This is the kind of reaction Nigel said he wants. 'In three questions', Nigel related, 'the youngster had got to the core of that display and related it to place he remembered and had experience of'.

Of a new display he is working on Nigel says, 'It's is all incredibly exciting', I'm working on it 24 hours a day - every waking moment.

Nigel is a brilliant example of a person following his own dreams and passions.

Helping each student realize their passions ought to be central to every learners education - and such passions provide something to develop those future capacities around.


Tom said...

It is a magical place for a visit !
I have taken classes there (last century) and every single child is captivated by the displays. History comes alive.

Bruce said...

This is the kind of engaging learning students need. As you say a magical place.

Anonymous said...

If only teachers understood their job is not to teach but to create conditions for students to learn. Chidren are born with an innate desire to learn - where does this desire go to? How come Nigel survived?

Kathy said...

Hey dad, you write that late at night? You know your not doing too well when I can pick up more than 2 spelling mistakes!

I can still remember that day when when out and Nigel took us out to the workshed and gave us loads of little trinkets. Bricks and bullets and little kiwi's, it was very cool.

Bruce said...

Hi kiddo!

(Tell me when it is the best time to 'skype' you!!)
I just put in those spelling mistakes to attract small minds! I read it through and it could be tidied up but I couldn't find the mistakes. Tell me by my e-mail and I will correct.

I always like the man on the toilet reading the paper at the Museum! Always a fun place to visit.

Aroha nui
Your dad.