Friday, September 24, 2010

'How to be an Explorer of the World'

Now for something really different!!!

If anybody out there is creative, or would like to be ( after all we were all born creative until schools got hold of us) this is the book for you or your students. Actually if anybody out there is a scientist, or would like to be, ( after all we were all born to be scientists until schools got hold of us) this is the book for you, or your students.Or if you would just like to see more, notice more or make life more interesting this is the book for you ( because this is what we were born to do).

To me this book supplies what is missing in our increasingly focused literacy and numeracy classrooms. Any half creative teacher would find it packed full of great ideas and not a learning objective, WALT or success criteria in sight.

How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.
ISBN 978-0-399-53460-7 ( us $14 95)

Now and again along comes a book that surprises. How to be an Explorer is one of them.

The book even comes with a warning.

'To whoever has just picked up this book if you find you are unable to use your imagination, you should put this book back immediately.It is not for you. In this book you will be repeatedly asked to...suspend your disbelief, complete tasks that make you feel a bit strange, look at the world in ways that make you think differently, conduct experiments on a regular basis, and see the inanimate objects as alive.'

This 200 page 'book' is full of interesting ideas to use with your class - or just for yourself.

The book is all about observing, collecting, analyzing , comparing and noticing patterns.

Kids love collecting - everything, the author writes, is interesting. People who collect things do similar work to the work of ethnographers who document the particular culture through field research.

The book is packed full of wonderful practical ( and simple) ideas to help the readers document and observe their world - and to take notes and to record what is seen.

This is the essence of education and amazingly it encompass literacy and numeracy but only as part of exploring. This is as it should be. Only schools distract learners from their real world.

The book is full of prompts as assignments to help you become an explorer. And you can start from where you are currently sitting and then spread out to wherever you go. Your curriculum is whatever you notice -whatever emerges. This is something creative teacher have aways known but now almost impossible in our soulless, measurable, accountable, and increasingly formulaic and standardized system of education.

Everyones house is full of collections of objects to start with. Start by looking at them closely and why they appeal to you. The book then takes you into exploring their immediate environment through the senses (another lost art in out literacy focused schools).

Random experiences are there to be savoured and every experience is personal and unrepeatable - this is true personalised learning. Teacher could take the class on a daily weekly walk ( just a few minutes) to notice what is their to be noticed or to see something in particular. And from his oral language will lead to writing and reading - and in that order. Before the word comes the experience.

The book is all about the genesis of the creative and scientific process - or about taking advantage of what all children were born with until 'flipped' by often abstract school experiences.

A class using this book would become a museum of children's collections an art gallery of their expression, and a scientists lab of their experiments.

There are just so many great things in this book to enhance children's perception. Digital cameras would be invaluable along with drawing skills that slow thinking down enough to really see things to wonder about. As Jules Verne says 'look with all your eyes' and, I would add, with all your senses and with your imagination - something young children have in spades. 'Sometimes a tree can tell you more than can be read in a book', writes Carl Jung.

This is non-linear learning, the opposite to much of traditional schooling. It is, as Paul Klee wrote long ago, ' taking your mind for a walk' -actually he said 'taking a line' but it much the same thing. You never know where you will end up. Possibly the most important lesson in this highly unpredictable life we all lead. There is an activity included in the book called 'how to wander aimlessly'.

And the book contain all sorts of ideas to transform everyday experiences through art and the imagination.

The book comes complete with lots of ways to record fieldwork and to document what has been observed and noticed.

But remember this book comes with a warning! If you mind had been habituated by teaching maybe this book is not for you - or maybe it is just the book to learn to see like a child explorer again.

It is simply a fun book -all written by hand!


Jody said...

This is one of my FAVOURITE books ... my class and I delve into it regularly. Well worth purchasing!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Jody -I hope others purchase it because it will be great for them also to delve into.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun - and fun is what our ever so serious schools need with their obsessive need to prove achievement. They measure themselves into imobility! The audit survellience culture reigns supreme - creativity withers away.