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Depart Innovating Education

Depart into a Different Kind of Classroom

Some­times it’s not a room at all. Class­rooms of the future look a lot less like peo­ple get­ting lec­tured, and much more like peo­ple in con­ver­sa­tion.

Jack Delano, 1941

Over the past two cen­turies, edu­ca­tion was tai­lored to reflect and accom­mo­date the effi­cien­cies of indus­try. But while fac­to­ry pre­ci­sion is great for machines, it is much less suit­able for humans. To improve on the rigid­i­ty of that type of cur­ricu­lum, class­rooms have begun chang­ing to reflect new devel­op­ments in edu­ca­tion­al method­ol­o­gy. While stu­dents used to line up in rows of desks in their class­rooms, that desk orga­ni­za­tion has changed into groups of learn­ers at tables. Beyond this kind of musi­cal chairs approach how can we, as a species, devel­op more effec­tive ways to learn alto­geth­er? What kind of con­tri­bu­tion might inte­grat­ing meta­phys­i­cal stud­ies into cur­ricu­lums be?

There’s a move under­way for unschool­ing, that is, for undo­ing the rigid struc­tures of what it looks like to be a school-age kid in a learn­ing envi­ron­ment. Fam­i­lies look­ing to give their chil­dren an alter­na­tive edu­ca­tion might: fol­low a world-school cur­ricu­lum, choose to home­school, or pur­sue an edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem that allows for learn­ing to be dri­ven by the child. Fam­i­lies from all socioe­co­nom­ic and racial back­grounds are now look­ing for a struc­ture that accom­mo­dates their own jour­ney instead of mere­ly choos­ing to fol­low a road pre­vi­ous­ly dic­tat­ed from above.

Despite deep prob­lems aris­ing with a widen­ing gap in resources between pri­vate and pub­lic edu­ca­tion, we must main­tain a stead­fast resolve to give chil­dren every­where every chance imag­in­able to learn. As edu­ca­tion is a cen­tral pil­lar of any func­tion­ing soci­ety, there is no excuse for under­fund­ing our schools. Our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem must be able to pro­vide all aspects of a core cur­ricu­lum based on val­ues of human­i­ty and sol­i­dar­i­ty.

Today’s edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards are improv­ing to bet­ter cater to the full­ness of what it means to be human. The mind, body, spir­it, and envi­ron­ment in which we live and learn are all con­nect­ed. Through this lens, sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, math, lan­guage, arts, music, and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion can all be inte­grat­ed through aware­ness of the cor­re­la­tions between each dis­ci­pline. By tak­ing a holis­tic per­spec­tive to learn­ing, we can devel­op greater depth of knowl­edge.

In the city of Bal­ti­more, the Holis­tic Life Foun­da­tion is work­ing to address the entire­ty of stu­dents’ needs.19 Instruc­tors with­in this orga­ni­za­tion pro­vide tech­niques for: peace­ful con­flict res­o­lu­tion, improved focus and con­cen­tra­tion, greater con­trol and aware­ness of thoughts and emo­tions, improved self-reg­u­la­tion, bet­ter stress reduc­tion, and prac­ticed relax­ation. In 60–90 minute class­es, the Mind­ful Moment pro­gram teach­es stu­dents emo­tion­al tools and life skills based on yoga, med­i­ta­tion, breath­ing, tai-chi, cen­ter­ing, and oth­er mind­ful­ness tech­niques.20 The pro­gram was intro­duced to Pat­ter­son Park High School, a pub­lic school in Bal­ti­more, where a diverse stu­dent body includes undoc­u­ment­ed stu­dents, stu­dents from con­flict areas, and stu­dents from refugee sites. After the Holis­tic Life Foun­da­tion intro­duced its pro­gram at the high school, sus­pen­sions for fight­ing dropped by more than half, from 49 to 23. At the same time, the num­ber of 9th graders mov­ing up to 10th grade increased from 45% in to 64%, along with a gen­er­al increase in the aver­age GPA of those stu­dents involved in the pro­gram.21

An edu­ca­tion­al mod­el account­ing for the ben­e­fits of mind­ful­ness, med­i­ta­tion, and yoga as a dai­ly prac­tice helps fos­ter social and emo­tion­al growth. Edu­ca­tors and stu­dents from all back­grounds have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lever­age holis­tic approach­es to improve edu­ca­tion­al envi­ron­ments. Chil­dren who are raised with the sup­port of mind­ful­ness tech­niques become bet­ter equipped to nav­i­gate the var­i­ous chal­lenges they encounter with focus and clar­i­ty.

For children—or rather anyone—to be pre­pared for uncer­tain­ty, they need ways to active­ly: con­nect to their sur­round­ings, to find calm with­in them­selves, to learn to embrace fail­ure, and to prac­tice empa­thy. Col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing expe­ri­ences encour­age inquiry and cre­ative prob­lem solv­ing to fos­ter mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tion between stu­dents. Education—based on the val­ues of respect, respon­si­bil­i­ty, and solidarity—can be fur­ther improved with prac­tices devot­ed to con­scious aware­ness.

“Ashram of the 5 Sens­es. Project for the Reha­bil­i­ta­tion and Exten­sion of the Deaf-Mute School”, Ele­na Agu­do Sier­ra
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