Monday, September 13, 2010

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #40: Take Your Students Outside

This week's entry comes from Ms. Chen, who teaches in rural New Mexico.  Check out her blog, red pen revisions.

Here is a lesson I’ve learned this year. Take your kids outside, and whatever you do, don’t plan. You will be surprised by what you learn about your students and what they too will learn.

Our walk happens on a trail that is rocky and unpaved, lined with low, serpentine shrubbery and prickly vegetation. My students bring me treasures they discover. B. announced his discovery of a lizard by holding it up in the air by its tail. The sandy white lizard lay limp, perhaps hoping to play dead in an attempt to be left alone. No such luck; my students fingers poked and prodded with delight.

T. brought over a local variety of honeysuckle, its pink shoots interspersed with white-yellow ones. He offered me one, telling me to taste it. "It tastes of watermelon summer," he analyzes reflectively.

We have found seedpods I am unable to identify; so we strip it down to its tiny black seeded center. We have crept up quietly upon two baby bats, nesting in the eaves of the school. My students were hushed with an awe I can only aspire to inspire in the classroom. We have found a vertebrate column, the blood not yet bleached white by the southwestern sun. We speculated on the animal based on the size; we settled upon goat, or at least a very large dog.

It is on these walks my students express the imaginations that I do not often get to see in the classroom, and vocalize curiosities so rarely stimulated by our formulaic textbook curriculum. I read a short story recently about a creative little girl whose "lies" often got her in trouble with "the adults." She held tea parties where no one attended but herself, and contentedly, "she swallows cups of invisible tea. She chews mouthfuls of air."

And so every afternoon, I'm reminded of the joy that is childhood curiosity as we have our sunshine-drenched cups of invisible tea and great mouthfuls of air.

Read more about this ongoing project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com.  Week 41 is scheduled for next week.