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Traditional Wisdom & New Education Models

Posted on: June 8, 2009
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Oral Tradition Cultures understand that life, itself, is the greatest teacher. Children learn through doing, whether it is skinning a deer, making beadwork for a pow-wow, or  helping grandma make tortillas, children are engaged in learning as a part of their culture. Modern educators have coined this type of learning “experiential learning” as if it were a new concept. The notion that learning is for a classroom, or lives solely between the pages of a book, is exactly the reason that kids often shut off to the concept of learning. Learning becomes associated with being forced to do something that children have no interest in doing.

As educators, we can not throw the answers out before the questions have been asked. How do you cultivate curiosity in kids, and lead them to the questions, and the desire to learn?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but didn’t know how to do it? What better incentive is there to learning something new than knowing it will help you attain something that you want to accomplish?

Invite children to dream about what they may do when they grow up. Invite them to dream about how they might change the world and make it a better place, and you begin to empower them to explore the questions themselves. Invite them to help you solve a problem and you are giving them the respect that makes them feel like they can accomplish anything.

Today, we have more opportunity than ever to make learning a way of life through collaborations between teachers, parents, artists, technology, and the internet.

One example is a project that brought video cameras and computers to an indian reservation. Some of the traditional elders were opposed to bringing this “new” technology to their community. Many of the kids were no longer interested in the old stories, or the traditional language and culture because television had influenced their community with pop-culture. Shortly after the kids got ahold of the cameras, and editing equipment, they began to think of where to find the most interesting stories to tell/document. Where did they go? To their most respected traditional elders! The technology assisted in sparking pride and curiosity about their own culture. The end result was something that was educational and fun across generations.

In the old days, library research was at the foundation of school learning. Now days, Google has replaced the card-catalogue. How interesting is a geography book once you have played with Google-Earth? B-O-R-I-N-G…

Teachers who innovate in the use of media, technology, and experiential learning are shaping the classroom of the future. Parents who challenge their kids by asking them to google a good cake recipe, or find an online video that shows how to fix a leaky faucet, are bringing practical skills into their home while empowering their kids to be problem solvers. Artists who make their work available across multiple platforms, and share their creative process with children can take the pressure of perfection out of the equation, and allow kids to explore their imagination and celebrate their mistakes as much as their successes.

This is community learning, this is traditional wisdom and new education models merging with technology and the arts. This is what we call Living Folklore, making the dream and the stories come alive in a creative and educational way that engages people across generations and cultures. No longer can we afford to alienate, exclude or passively watch, NOW is the time to include, embrace, and encourage participation.

The ancient and the modern worlds have a place next to each other at the feast that celebrates our shared global future. Let’s dig in!

One Response to “Traditional Wisdom & New Education Models”

  1. Rita C Says:

    This is some of your most exciting work, to me. Linking the Elders and the Children brings hope to both spectrums of the Generations … and noone does it better. Thank you for your films!

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