Natural Learning School
“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”
Down to our last minute in Memphis, we found ourselves experiencing yet another layer of alternative thinking that this Southern city had to offer.
While conducting Domestic Coordinates, a gentleman that participated felt strongly that we should visit the Natural Learning School, an alternative homeschool that is based on the Reggio Emilia approach to education. Reggio Emilia is rooted in the belief that children, no matter their age, are natural learners.
The class is multi-aged and embodies a child-centered curriculum (meaning the children’s interests inspire what is learned) along with other holistic developmental teaching strategies, we as artists and educators, feel so passionate about. Within their stated philiosophy they describe their program as one that empowers children to begin to seek knowledge independently, become more open to learning about any and all subjects and acquire greater interpersonal skills through effective communication by negotiation, respecting differences, and peer collaboration.
Kandra Kolehmainen, a teacher at the school, invited us to come into her class and share our project with the kids and have them participate in Domestic Coordinates. It was wonderful to observe the compassion she exudes to her students, two of which are her own, and the innovative and unique project-based learning that goes on. The kids, ages 5-11 are working on a film project, maintaining a garden, researching and studying various subjects, and developing early critical and creative thinking skills.
Each student provided us with a glimpse into their young lives through there creative responses to the questions, “What is home to you? What was your first home ?” We did not need to provide a juvenile explanation of what we were doing project-wise nor did we receive a simple or “child-like” response. It was really beautiful to observe the energy and process taking place in a room of 18 students. Collaborative, respectful, interested, and highly intelligent. Seeing it firsthand, this platform for educating is incredibly successful.
In a society where art appreciation and integration into curriculum continues to be on a downward spiral, more and more parents realize that just learning academics and how to take tests are not nearly enough. Many of us are coming to admit that young people in their communities are suffering from a lack of needed learning and creative exploration, and society is suffering from this as well. We applaud these teachers and parents who are completely stepping outside of the norm and mainstream and taking education and their children’s futures into their own hands in a progressive and alternative direction.
If you are a concerned parent or not, you can read more about these concepts by checking out the following pages:
Special thanks Kandra her teaching partner and her students.
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