Category: The Learning Environment (page 1 of 2)

Bringing Miracles to Children’s Lives

Imagine, if you will,  school as an inspiring place where children love to go. School as an extension of home, where everyone feels safe, respected, and honored for who they are. At an NLC-based school children learn, fueled by their own curiosity, not by the promise of a reward, and NLC teachers, called learning companions fully support each child as they discover their own path.

Children look forward to the day ahead in an NLC-based school. When they arrive at school, they aren’t pinned to a desk, passively listening to a teacher, waiting for the school day to end. Instead of quietly following directions, they are free to talk with peers, play, and start their own projects. In this learning environment, each child has the chance to explore and engage according to their own rhythm and interests.

 

NLC-school-house

As learning companions and mentors, NLC teachers share a great variety of practical and intellectual skills that relate to a child’s world. They don’t facilitate all of a child’s activities or set the pace of the day. Instead, they allow space for the learners to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Learning companions reassure children as they discover the world through play, because they understand that play is the most effortless and joyful way for them to learn. They nurture children’s imagination, because they know that imagination will serve them throughout their lives to face changes and challenges creatively. At NLC-based schools, adults trust children’s willingness to learn and their capacity for absorbing knowledge. Children acquire academic skills at their own pace, peacefully and free from pressure and judgment.

making-stilts

Learning takes place within carefully prepared rooms, as well as outdoors and in nature. In each of these environments, children walk about freely finding many engaging, fun activities that offer endless modes of creative expression. On a large table, children may tinker with all kinds of crafting materials, such as buttons, seashells, sewing supplies, paint, and clay. Art and writing materials inspire children to create their own books, letters, and diaries. The interest in reading comes from within, at a time appropriate for each child. Learners start writing when they feel a need to communicate with peers and adults, plan their projects, document their activities, and express themselves. Music, theatre, cooking, and gardening materials are accessible at all times. Children have time to play with peers, with blocks, dolls, and cars, and to process and integrate the discoveries they make in the adult world. Outdoors and in nature, children move their bodies, and soak up the fresh air and natural sunlight. Sand, leaves, flowers, soil, water, rocks, pebbles, and sticks invite them to play; shady trees offer cozy places to rest and read.

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NLC learning companions show learners that math is essential in preparing for an empowered life, is fun and useful. Learners acquire skills such as counting, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, measuring, and estimating are acquired while cooking, following a recipe, crafting a checker board, planning their budget, and pretending to own a market booth –or planning to participate at the farmer’s market in town. In addition, through creatively exploring Montessori materials, such as colored boards with beads, cubes, and mysterious wooden boxes, children learn about the world of numbers. In playing with these materials, children begin to understand with their whole body that geometry, algebra, and statistics are about their world, and math becomes a personal tool.

This learning environment is free from imposed competition. If children feel an urge to measure their skills with peers, they ask if someone would like to playfully compete with them. Instead of receiving grades from teachers, learners receive constructive feedback concerning their learning progress whenever they wish it.

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Caring NLC learning companions model emotionally healthy and socially competent behaviors. Children learn to accept emotions as a natural part of life, to express them through words, and then to let them go. Instead of teaching how to avoid falls—physical or emotional—NLC learning companions model how to fall and get up again. This school helps children make friends, work in groups, resolve conflict, cope with rejection, develop self-discipline, say no in a friendly way, finding new strengths from inner resources. In short, children learn how to love and respect themselves and others.

David Meixner-Pottenbrunn-NLC-web
At NLC-based schools, childhood becomes a wondrous adventure full of joyful, memorable moments. Throughout this adventure, learners rarely lose sight of who they really are. The gift of a child-centered, truly inspiring education allows them to further discover themselves, to dig deeper into the mystery of who they are, and to connect with their full beauty, talents, and gifts. Being intimate with their own talents, passions, and interests will help them as young adults as they will emerge from school with an understanding of how they might fit into the larger community and society. In addition, at NLC-based schools, learners will find all the help needed to prepare for college entry exams or other benchmarks they would like to reach when they first leave the school.

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The NLC school model is designed to help prepare youngsters to find their place in the world and understand that true happiness comes from each present moment, fully lived. This education strengthens children’s spirits, nurturing and protecting their hopes for the future.

Schools like this are possible, and you can be part of creating a school like this in your community. The New Learning Culture courses, consulting, and books provide practical step-by-step guidance and resources on how to create or transform schools. Together we can re-invent education and create the schools children, teachers, and parents deserve.

With smiles,
Carmen Gamper
[NLC book excerpt / copyright Carmen Gamper 2016]
[Photos courtesy of:
Aktive Montessorischule, Die Pfütze Meran, Italy
Montessorischule Stams, Austria
Lernwerkstatt Wasserschloss Pottenbrunn, David Meixner, Austria]

The Rights of Children at Schools

In my work as an educational consultant, I have visited many schools all over the world. I have observed, in both traditional and alternative schools, that children’s basic rights are often ignored. I believe that all human beings, no matter how old they are, must be granted the right to take care of their bodily needs. The child’s body and whole organism are by nature determined to move and learn in specific ways. When we adults refuse to collaborate with the child’s natural development, we create immense, unnecessary suffering. Even seemingly harmless experiences such as occasionally being denied the right to go to the toilet when needed, can leave trauma and health problems that are carried into adulthood.

The widespread assumption that children should sit still and listen, has been repeatedly disproved by scientists, psychologists, and educators. Children are meant to move their bodies and play. This is how they learn best. Furthermore, children in all school models are still being discriminated against, shamed and punished for having different learning styles. Sadly, children who learn more quickly or more slowly than their peers are often neglected in the classroom. Sometimes, learning content simply is not interesting enough or even age-appropriate. If children are unable to relate to the subject matter or the way in which it is delivered, they naturally lose interest. Children are drawn toward classroom activities that are aligned with their stages of cognitive and emotional development.

The “school model” itself will not protect children from abuse. Every single teacher and parent needs to take responsibility for his or her own well-being and for the child’s well-being.

UNESCO’s Rights Of Children are very basic human rights (e.g., to protect children against child labor and violence, and secure their right for education). http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/CHILD_E.PDF My list of children’s rights starts from the assumption that children are in an educational environment. I hope this list of rights will raise awareness for the subtle abuse and hidden suffering that occur in schools every day. If we allow children to feel more comfortable in learning environments, we adults will also feel better and happier! Instead of having to worry about being thirsty or feeling emotionally drained, children will consistently have their needs met. Children will gain the opportunity to experience true, authentic learning with joy. This leads to a lifelong love of learning.

THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN AT SCHOOLS
by Carmen Gamper

All the children have the right to do the following:

  1. Go to the toilet when needed.
  2. Have drinking water available.
  3. Move the body when needed.
  4. Learn to take care of personal needs.
  5. Learn and process emotions through play.
  6. Learn through exploration, trial, and error.
  7. Make mistakes and not be judged or shamed.
  8. Learn at a personal pace.
  9. Fully understand a subject before being tested.
  10. Not to be tested involuntarily. Instead, share knowledge by free choice, only when ready to receive feedback on learning progress.
  11. Not to be punished. Instead, children should be respectfully encouraged to become more self-disciplined.
  12. Not to be compared with peers. Instead, acknowledged as an individual student with individual talents, opinions, and characteristics.
  13. Not to be judged for being different.

This declaration is available as a beautiful poster:

by Carmen Gamper
www.NewLearningCulture.com

Listening to Silence

Fall, with its short days, invites us in a very natural way to more calm, tranquility and meditation. We can accept this invitation.

Instead of planning trips or turning on the TV, we can allow ourselves to light a candle on a dark evening and to do nothing , just nothing.

Resting and slowing down are very important components of natural growth processes. We can sit down and breathe deeply. To our children we can say: “I am resting, just like the plants in winter.” Or “I am listening to silence.”

Basically we can say that we have two different ways of perceiving the world that depend on whether we are relaxed or stressed. In a laid-back mood, it is much easier to be friendly, patient and considerate. However, when we are stressed and in a hurry, it is much harder to demonstrate patience, and it often happens that we are rude – especially with children. We easily lose patience and have little understanding for the nature of a child.

These two opposite ways of looking at the world can even be distinguished on the biological level. For example, when we are in a hurry, stress hormones are released into our bodies and change our way of thinking and acting.Relaxation is almost a prerequisite to understand the child’s world. A stressed adult has little patience with himself and even less with children.

To honor silence, we can concentrate on our breathing, or on the breath of our child and vice versa. The slower and deeper the breath, the more relaxed we are. Then we can think or say: “I breathe in joy. I breathe out sadness. I breathe in kindness. I breathe out stress. ”

Then we can focus on our body and consciously feel and release tension. These types of meditation are very effective for adults, but not for all children.

Children have a natural gift for meditation, if we understand meditation as “allowing ourselves to dwell in the present”. They can focus deeply on a drawing or a game, and all the forces in the body and mind are focused on their activity. Thus, their activity naturally becomes a meditation.

Dr. Maria Montessori recognized this natural affinity to meditation in children. She respected and nurtured this phenomenon and named it “normalization”. An anecdote says that once Dr. Montessori placed a child together with his chair on a table while the child kept working quietly on a learning material.

At home place we can create space and time for this type of focused activity. Many crafting works are suitable to bring about calmness and concentration. It is not just about finding wonderful crafting projects for the season, but also about how we present these and lead the child to focused work.

We can ask ourselves: “Is the child ready for concentrated work? Or do we need time for a walk first?” If willingness can be felt, we turn off the TV, computer and telephone. On the table we should only place relevant materials – no distractions.
Then we can start, and describe our activity with a few clear words. Step by step we can help the child to do it by him/herself, and once the work is in progress we can work on our own project or watch the child work.

To summarize, whether resting, doing quiet meditation, or tinkering – the most important aspects are the relaxation and well-being that are being evoked. Then, everything can become an important part of a natural learning process.

Wishing all my readers a peaceful and happy holiday season!

Carmen Gamper
www.newlearningculture.com

P.S.: New Learning Culture will be again at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Family Day (Woodacre Ca. 94973) on Sunday January 30! Come by and explore our wonderful learning toys! RSVP here: www.spiritrock.org

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