It’s only the end of September and students, teachers and parents are already asking me if my classroom is building the igloo this winter. Of course we will be!! Every year, my students collect over 300 gallon-sized jugs starting in October to build a life sized igloo in the winter months. This is a perfect example of how I foster experienced-based learning in my classroom. During the cross curricular subjects of the Arctic, students are actively engaged in learning and obtaining a deeper knowledge of the subject. From past experiences, it is evident that they retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning.
Last year, I was lucky enough to present at the First New Jersey Educator’s Conference titled, “Raising the Bar: Educational Approaches that Go Beyond the Labels”. My presentation focused on the difference between facilitating “discovery” and “teaching” in the classroom. The workshop looked at how through asking the right questions and providing specific kinds of experiences, educators can assess a child’s foundational capacities that support the comprehension of academic content. In order for children to internalize concepts, they must make them their own. Providing opportunities for the “discovery” of the “meaning” of concepts allows even the most diverse learners to develop true comprehension and knowledge. During the presentation, I showed the process of the life-sized igloo in my room. I explained that although I provided the students with the jugs, I had them discovery how to build it through trial and error. Then once they built it, I asked many thought provoking without telling the students all about igloos. They asked questions and I helped scaffold questions to lead them to problem solving a solution.
I leave you with this thought. Wouldn’t it be great if all schools could put the textbooks down and have the students participate in high impact lessons inclusive of emotional components? Then they could capture and tap into the students’ affect and interest, thus supporting deeper connections and understanding of targeted concepts. I am lucky that Celebrate the Children allows me to use experienced based teaching in my classroom. It was nice to start the year reflecting on my teaching methodology. I will be sure to share a picture of our igloo this winter including some of the questions my students ask and some of the questions I will ask to get them problem solving. (Jennifer Robak, Teacher, Celebrate the Children)
Progress must start with a relationship. We want to support children to become happy, secure, social and creative people, who can think outside the box and think on their feet. We must respect and support each child's unique profile while promoting development through meaningful, relationship-based experiences. The relationships that support this development are built on respect and trust. For children who experience the world in an often disorganized and sometimes fearful way, these trusting relationships require patience and nurturing. A key component to the approach at Celebrate the Children is the involvement of families in the intervention. Sometimes this simply starts with helping the parent and child get back to a place where they can enjoy each other again rather than solely focusing on the challenges. Once we have taken the time to get to know the child and learn about the unique way in which they experience the world, we can support them in reaching higher levels of development. Autism is a sensory-processing disorder, not an intellectual disorder. Many ASD children are highly intelligent and often gifted. Therefore, if we can make a connection with them, we can tap into all the wonderful gifts they have to offer. We target development from the foundations of self-regulation and engagement, all the way through emotional and abstract thinking and reflection. The most recent research in the field of autism now supports the notion that critical neurological connections are made when children are engaged in pleasurable and meaningful interactions with their caregiver.
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.