Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pattern Languages: Links between Lesson Plans, Individual Dreams, and Community

A Little History
My name is Chow. I garden and teach lessons for the Outdoor Learning Environment at East Ft Worth Montessori Academy. I've been here for since August of 2011 and this is my first time to teach children about anything. So I did what I knew, look at pattern languages to see how I could leverage their creativity and desires to teach them what they wanted.

In another picture, there is a Community Cultivators Dallas-Ft Worth originating and developing the community has been step one. We're a dispersed group of individuals with miscellaneous talents and gifts. The vital question became, "how do we harness our community assets?"

The previous idea of community assets is next in succession from the individual and their own personal dreams and goals. Although, both can be cultivated simultaneously when the proper resources are injected to develop new patterns.

That should do it.

Onward to the lesson plan.

Table of Contents + Titles
The beauty of education through Outdoor Learning is the adaptiveness we have to focus on what we observe through the children's excitement and participation just as they observe us and the environment to discover knowledge instead of being told or fed the answers. In fewer words, our teaching methods can change within the moment to cater to a particular interest. To organize this self-discovery, the children are equipped with their own journals with a table of contents to structure their documentation of their explorations. Funny thing is I never did that myself until I saw that these children's organizational skills were far superior to mine.

Since August, I've been preparing to teach lessons to these children from my observations of them and my experience in life. Let the teaching begin!

This week, I've been placed to teach 2nd grade classes about a lesson topic of my choice. Naturally, the kids have shown interest in things that are animated. It's irresistible, and it somehow narrows their attention to that life force. At East Ft Worth Montessori (EFWMA), we have chickens, goats, and rabbits. From previous conversations from another Outdoor Learning Educator, the kindergarten class didn't remember anything else she taught except for those three things: chickens, goats, and rabbits. They remember most of the details about the animals but couldn't recall the conversations about weather or anything else that they have covered in the past few months.

Observation: Teach them what they want to know and don't strive too far from that at first

So I decided to add a new addition to complement the other animals and make life easier at our school farm while teaching about a life force that they're somewhat familiar with, earthworms .

The Lesson Plan

It's often assumed that kids do not know much about a particular subject. The case though is that many of them are more familiar than we may know. In economic theory, adverse selection occurs from asymmetrical information for the purchase of goods and services. For example, if you were to buy a used car the dealership has better information at the moment than you do. To cure that, you may take the car in for inspection and determine if its worth their asking price.

For information, it's alleviated by asking the simple question: What Do You Already Know?

From that point you've determined their current understanding or lack of understanding about a particular subject. Many people are misinformed about a particular topic and may not realize it. For instance, many parents are afraid of bees hurting their children or maybe just themselves. In effect, the children become scared in the environment with the sight of bees and do not behave correctly around them increasing their chances of being stung, an unfortunate event for the child and the bee.

At this point, the foundation of knowledge can be steered into a new comfort zone with proper information and time. With certain individuals, changing the paradigm of fear or ignorance may take a different approach.

From the point of their current knowledge base, we can then move towards the next area of participation and involvement: What do You want to Know?

Future based perceptions allow the children to abstractly grasp their thoughts and desires about a particular subject and begin communicating it to the world. In the case of earthworms, the kids were fascinated with how they reproduce.

The beauty of this simple question also allowed me to gauge their interest and alter my lesson to address those wants and move into other areas to show how they complement each other. In this case, the reproduction of earthworms also requires the foundation of knowledge about their habitat, shelter, food, air, water, and so forth.

In this manner, the children can link how the worms reproduce but also need other elements to thrive. Producing baby worms continuously won't be beneficial unless the habitat is conducive for it.

Once I've determined What they Already Know and What they Want to Know, the lesson moves into the area of Observation and Analysis.

Using their prior knowledge and their desires, they can now view an earthworm and see for themselves if they can answer their own questions. In one class period, they may determine new insights, but the likelihood of answering everything is limited to the duration of the lesson, which is not long enough.

However, they get to answer for themselves, and I only serve as a guide to steer their thoughts to general concrete ideas. For instance, the children were able to identify that the worms enjoy darkness. The following question would then be to determine how do earthworms react to light and have them determine for themselves from their previous knowledge base why they react to light in that manner. Simple answers would be "it dries them out." Great! They're then rewarded with the simple act of holding a worm.

Onwards! From there, I move into the altered lesson plan. The components are dynamic so that I can move to different areas: anatomy, reproduction, habitat, etc. In this way, I can teach the lesson that they wanted to know just as their observations in nature may have taken place outdoors.

So. .

what does this have to do with individual dreams and community assets?


Individual Dreams and Communal Assets
As an individual, my dreams and goals are to create a world we all want to live in. To determine a plan of action, I would first start by determine What I Already Have and Know.

Much in the same fashion as the lesson plan for the children, I am selecting talents and gifts that are already acquired through my life experience. It's a leverage point to then determine the future state of assets, my dreams. Another way to say dream though is What I Want to Have and Know.

From there, I can seek members of the community, online or local, to determine how I can leverage my current foundation (knowledge and skill set) to reach my desired goals.

Likewise, once an individual can harness this, working within communities is the next step within the succession. Individual goals can be accomplished alone. However community support speeds up the succession through the accumulation of individual foundations and dreams.

Going back to the lesson plan, what does a community have and what does the community want.

Patterns don't have to be complicated. It's like a math problem where you change the variable X to Y, a metaphor to relate those same variables using words, or a piece of art to communicate beauty.

You can search within, or look around only to find very similar if not the same answers.

It's all very funny in the end. It took communities, individuals, and this school to get me to realize how similar and the same they all are.

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