Greenway is partnering with regional and national education organizations to develop this program with expected delivery in Summer 2012. It’s fundamental questions are: How can we give children a sense of belonging, worth, empowerment, and belief that their ideas matter? How can we enable a feeling of “I can” and “we can”? How can we connect their lives and their ideas and visions to the bigger world?
In fact, why isn’t all learning designed around creating a better future for our children? Indeed, what would happen if we valued children as whole people, with an equal stake and role in how people work to create a better future? As Raffi Cavoukian, and the Centre for Child Honouring, note:
“Child Honouring is a children-first approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems. It views how we regard and treat our young as the key to building a humane and sustainable world. It is a novel idea—organizing society around the priority needs of its youngest members.”
Organizing society around its youngest members also suggests that we empower them and listen to them. If children know that their ideas matter, then they will be more likely to voice them, and they will put more effort into creating and shaping them. This is treating them and their ideas with dignity and respect.
What sort of thinking comes when we erase the boundaries between the young and the old? If empowered, creative and skilled (holistic and integrated) thinkers (of all ages) are what we need, one good way to empower these thinkers is to create learning environments that matter—that foster ideas and the generation of solutions to real problems, big or small, and that allows students of all ages to not just feel like they have a role to play in the world, but that actually provides them with that role. This is the focus of the Learn to Connect project.
For example, every year thousands and perhaps millions of student of all ages from around the globe are given projects that are completed, graded, and forgotten. It’s as if we are nervous about empowering people to make a change until they are an “adult” so we don’t let their projects matter. But there are also many examples of situations where even young children have great ideas that make and are making positive contributions—and they have the energy to offer for sure. We need to make learning both problem-based and relevant.
Perhaps literal learning spaces (e.g., school or campus facilities) are more like the hub of a wheel of learning spaces (both physical spaces and the spaces of our minds). In effect, schools are not simply the places where you go to learn (or thought of as the place where learning occurs), but a place that serves as the focal point for coalescing ideas and actions and creating connections to the broader world. Schools should be places where children become leaders–even of those who are older (but perhaps not wiser). They should be places where children begin to see their place in the world, and their role in creating a better world.