Monday, March 2, 2015

John Dewey, Dr. Seuss & a one room schoolhouse in Armenia Colombia

A one room rural schoolhouse in Colombia has much to teach us about the schools children need to be successful learners. Nueva Escuela’s curriculum is predicated on the belief that children learn best by doing, rather than being endlessly drilled for national exams.

It is unfortunate and surprising that Escuela Nueva is almost unknown in the United States, even though it has won numerous international awards because so much of the thinking behind the curriculum and its application is closely aligned with the thinking of our very own John Dewey. Dewey, decades ago, asserted that students learned best though experience.

I am quite certain our very own Dr. Seuss, who would be 111 years old today, would be a big fan of Escuela Nueva. Seuss was very much responsible for “killing off the Dick and Jane readers” and changed forever the way children learned to read when he wrote The Cat in the Hat, his first I Can Read Book. Comprised of 1629 words in length, with a vocabulary of only 223 words, the book was written to teach children how to read.
He knew that children who were bored by the Dick & Jane readers were not children who would learn to be good readers.

Rachel Lotan, a professor emeritus at Stanford said ‘Doing well on high stakes test scores is what drives the public school and fear of giving students more control of their own education will being down those scores.'

It seems counter productive to ignore evidence that shows students learn best by doing and when they are encouraged to think for themselves and engage in collaborative learning that speaks to their interests.

And we wish Dr Seuss long life in our hearts and minds—

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