May 18, 2007

Interest Driven Learning

5/18/2007 — cori
This is my passion. I believe children learn the most when they are ready and when they learn what they are the most interested in. As of late, my boys' interest has been in Native Americans. We have been reading an awesome book together called, "Chief Black Hawk". We have learned more about the Native American culture through this awesome story. The boys sit riveted wanting me to read "Just one more chapter, PLEASE!". This interest has prompted them to buy, with their own money, a bow and arrow set (from the dollar store).

While I was at my favorite store last night (Half Price Books), I came upon a clearance book titled, "The Encyclopedia on the Ancient Americas". This is one of the most extensive books I've found about the entire culture. But the coolest thing about the book was that on most pages, it actually teaches you how to make "Indian Items".

For instance, we just finished reading in "Chief Black Hawk" that only the war chief gets to carry the medicine bag and he carries it only into battle. It is the symbol of their nation, much like a flag would be. We then found in our new encyclopedia how to make one! Could life get any better? The boys begged me to make one with them.

So, we have just spent the better part of the afternoon, making our very own medicine bag. The things the boys have learned through this hands on experience have been innumerable. They are now out back mastering the art of shooting an arrow, climbing trees without making a noise, walking stealthily like an Indian brave and guarding their medicine bag with their life. Who wouldn't enjoy school if this is what is was like?

This interest may last a week, a month, or 3 days. But I can guarantee you they will never forget all that we learned because it was what they WANTED to learn. Here are just a few bits of knowledge they have gathered on their own:

1. Gavin started doing research in this new encyclopedia like there was no tomorrow. He couldn't drink in the information fast enough and started sharing things with me that he thought were cool, like: The Ancient Incas performed brain surgery and thought that by cutting a hole in the skull it would heal the patient and let out evil spirits.
2. They learned the value of money by having to pay for their bows and arrows from their piggy banks and what $1.50 looked like. They will now treat this 'toy' better because they know the 'cost' behind giving up their own money for it.
3. They learned perseverance while spending the past 3 hours making something that looked easy from a picture, but took a lot longer. They both said that "This is harder than it looks" and began discussing how much harder it must have been for the Indians to do. This led to a discussion about time and us wondering if Indians were ever in a hurry like we are in our society today. They learned the pride that comes in accomplishing something on your own (in our case as a team). That's another thing - teamwork. We all had an integral part to perform so that it would get done, which led to much verbal affirmation and encouraging of one another.
4. Gavin found out what types of herbs and plants they used to carry in the medicine bag. Cocoa, he said, was used as a pain reliever.
5. We had to use a ruler to take several measurements - lots of key math elements had to be implemented. However, my boys got to see the real life use of math, not just on paper.
6. Lots of fine motor skills were needed for the painting of the intricate designs and braiding the strap and making the tassels.
7. Gavin also asked if we could go to Oklahoma and go to a real Indian Museum. Bennett asked," Where are all the Indians, did the white man kill them all? I want an Indian friend. They're cool!" This led to an awesome History discussion on the Trail of Tears. My boys know the dates that Black Hawk and Tecumseh lived, when the Louisiana Purchase was and who fought in the War of 1812 now because of this little conversation.
8. Now, the best part, their imaginations have become alive in the back yard as they role play all that they are learning and put themselves in those scenarios we've read about.

Each day is a joy and a treasure as we learn together and grow together! And the best part is, now I can add, "Medicine Bag Maker" to my Mommy resume.

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