The brain likes to solve problems and an exciting classroom would have a variety of problems to solve. In order to prepare children to deal with a world that is becoming increasingly more complex, we need to allow for children to solve problems in multiple ways. Experimentation with various materials would allow for this. For example, math problems can be solved in multiple ways, obviously artistic drawings can be done in multiple ways, storytelling can be done with variations in script, and learning can be shared in a variety of ways with one another. These are activities which help children to problem solve from multiple perspectives, which will in turn unlock individual gifts and creativity, and train children to apply their creativity to deal effectively with change and crisis.
Encourage Scientific Inquiry
Education should encourage scientific inquiry because scientific inquiry is a natural innate ability in the brain of even the youngest baby. Scientific inquiry could be considered dependent or independent learning based on the type of study, the numbers of children involved, and curriculum organization. Scientific forays into the environment are what develop the concepts of object, space, time, and causality in the brain. Science experiments can help children to develop thinking, reasoning, and decision-making skills. These skills are developed through the ability of the mind to concentrate on completing tasks with specific steps and procedures which need to be followed –basically, the scientific method. The focus required to complete a sequence of events with precision develops this ability to focus and concentrate. That ability in turn later helps a child apply this focus and concentration on more complex learning experiences. This is why we provide children with step-by-step instructions for some tasks, but not all. If we allowed for choice in scientific exploration, we might find that our students are not ranking anymore near the bottom of the list of those countries that test children in the knowledge of scientific principles.
Utilize the Multiple Intelligence Theory
The educational model of Multiple Intelligence Theory (Gardner) has given education a big boost in incorporating problem solving strategies into the curriculum. Gardner identified eight and a half basic types of intelligence: language, mathematics, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, naturalistic, and the half – spiritual (He’s not positive yet there is a spiritual intelligence). He has shown us how we can teach by utilizing multiple problem-solving strategies using these multiple intelligences, multiple learning styles, and multiple ways of representing knowledge.
Explore with the Laboratory Approach
Another type of exciting learning is called the laboratory approach with field study. In this case, teacher instruction happens concurrently with an activity out of which the teacher pulls the appropriate subject-matter material. The teacher takes the children where the action is (children visit courthouse) or brings the action to the children (a courthouse is created in the school). The learning process occurs as the child interacts with the stimulus of the experience and organizes his own impressions and sensations. These activities are designed to involve the children directly in hands-on experiences. Field trips, books, films, slides, filmstrips, tape recordings, bulletin boards, pictures, and other visual aids would be supplemental. In addition, children can learn how to problem solve by observing how others demonstrate their mastery in the giving of their gifts to their respective community of learners. This might be by tailing community workers on an 8-hour job, or attending planning sessions, or conferences related to their area of interest. All of this could even be done online with technology, and students would not even need to leave the classroom.
Base the Curriculum on Themes
For older children, the curriculum could be organized around general themes to include a number of subject areas. Efforts would be made to expose children to areas of learning such as: anthropology, art, astronomy, biology, chemistry, economics, foreign languages, geology, home economics, health, history, literature, music, physics, sociology, and zoology. For example, the theme of cycles could be studied by delving into the seasons, weather patterns, temperature, animal migrations, human growth, holidays, ecology, food, or planets, to mention a few areas. From such a study, the child would learn that cycles are one of the underlying themes of our existence on Earth, affecting us personally and impersonally and overlapping into every area of life. This type of study favors divergent thinking, problem-solving, and gives choices. Potentially, the environment in the classroom can actually consist of the entire world through the wonders of modern technology.
Example: The Micro Society Concept
I am reminded of the micro society concept used with middle- school children, where every child has a job within a functioning micro society that mimics the real world. During the half day devoted to this model of educating, teens are constantly solving the problems of finance, marketing, retailing, management, etc. as they play act with storefronts, money, and materials used in the real work-a-day world. There is choice, freedom of movement, responsibility, and many opportunities to use writing, speaking, mathematical, planning, analysis, and research skills. This type of exposure has relevance to teens and preteens because someday they will be active in the real society. I think it’s also a great way to teach part to whole and whole to part concepts as well. This method also parallels the research stating that interest is essential for learning to take place because students choose which role in the micro society they want to take on.
Dr. Celeste Miller (Educating the Reincarnated Child).
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences. NY, New York: Basic Books