So, the conversation started with, "Why do we have to even come to school if we can find information on computers?"
(This was asked very honestly by a young man in my 5th grade science class. It was asked in all sincerity with no snarky intent at all. This young man wanted to know why the educational system existed as such.). Why did they have to come to my classroom each day for science instruction?
Looking around my somewhat cluttered science room (Legos over here, modeling clay over there, flashlights and wiring equipment popping out over there), my first response was, "Look at all the materials we use to explore science. You need to use all this to really get into science. Plus, you have access to iPads and more to help you learn.". I gestured around the room and felt myself physically deflating. You know that little voice in the back of your head that sometimes warns you of a strike out? Blaring in the back of my head! I knew that my answer was not sufficient, thoughtful, or appropriate for this question, but in all honesty...I panicked. Why did they have to be here? And, don't say compulsory education. (That was my second thought.)
So, I shelved this question. I did what I like to do with a lot of tough topics. I rolled it around in my mind. I talked through the idea on some of my long runs. I tested my ideas out loud once in awhile, and I listened to the people talking education.
(For the record, the conversation started in October and has continued internally since then.)
To my student, Michael, I decided to pose the question again this past Thursday. I started off the conversation explaining that I was still thinking of a question that he had asked several months ago. I was honest and said that I didn't really like my answer that I gave at the time, and that I had been thinking about the question. I wanted to hear his ideas.
"Michael, why do YOU think we have to come to school if you can find all your answers on computers?".
Looking around my still VERY cluttered room, now prisms, PVC pipes, tuning forks, model telephone cups, and thermometers everywhere, Michael didn't miss a beat.
"You help me ask questions I didn't even know I had!"
"I wonder more when you are teaching, and I think about it later. That's more learning than just finding answers on the computer."
AWESOME...phenomenal response from an 11 year old!
Now, is there more than that? I imagine you have more answers, ideas, and ways to react. On my runs, I have developed more. But, I LOVE Michael's answer. Throughout this year, I have tried to give each student the experiences needed to have them leave my classroom knowing that they are a scientist. We celebrate our questions, investigations, answers, and resulting questions. We ARE scientists.
Thanks for questioning the system, Michael!