We have mid-winter break this weekend so my family went over to Detroit and visited the Henry Ford Museum. Although I have lived in Michigan my whole life somehow I had never been there before. It is a huge place that emphasizes American advances in technology. Much of the technology is of the transportation variety with large exhibits of planes, trains, and automobiles but they also show changes in farm equipment, homes, furniture, culture, and huge steam engines. The subject matter is vast from science and technology to civil rights, American history, architecture, culture, and art. The technology really tells the story of the culture and history of America and the world.
My kids enjoyed looking at the thousands of items, but their favorite parts by far were the interactive parts. They ran to climb into any exhibit that they could.
|Listening and sitting in same bus seat as Rosa Parks|
They generated electricity.
They loved making these simple crayon rubs of exhibits.
They even enjoyed playing in an empty shack representing George Washington Carver's childhood home. We spent the longest time playing with K'Nex and drawing.
We built cars to go down bumpy ramps. After an hour we had to force the kids to go on to see the rest of the museum.
The temporary exhibit was on George Washington Carver. He was an amazing artist, philosopher, scientist, and educator. I was struck by how his holistic ideas of crop rotation and using natural remedies are just now being implemented and appreciated. He was a man before his time in so many aspects. His school was a working school that required students to be in the fields and woods exploring nature. They discovered by doing not by lectures in a classroom.
That is when it hit me. We don't need any new type of education. We need to use hands-on, problem-solving, student centered learning that has been around for over a hundred years. Museums are not divided by core subjects but are integrated by topics such as transportation or culture. Most of all, learning needs to be interactive. Reading good books counts as interactive too. Textbooks, not so much. The internet and online tools are just another development in hands-on learning.
Our classrooms should look more like museums with interesting things to touch, smell, taste, build, break, and play with. I think that is why students like science with aquariums filled with interesting creatures, birds nest, pine cones, etc. All classrooms should be filled with objects that cause students to ask what is this? What is it for? There is good pedagogy to be found in the design and items in a kindergarten classroom. That is why students love to use computers. They are hands-on too.
I have a few artifacts in my classroom that students are always interested in. I think I have a new goal to find some more. So what is the strangest thing that you have in your classroom to inspire curiosity?