What is the difference? You may ask. Even the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus uses them interchangeably. I believe, however, that there is a rather large distinction. Knowing facts and figures from a designated narrow band of information through lecture, homework, and rote memorization simply provides enough information for students to pass an exam. Whereas understanding comes from delving deeply into a theme, that is of great importance or interest to the student, through intense exploration in whatever modality(s) they choose which allows for complex, diverse, and rich conversations, which, in turn, leads to an even more profound comprehension.
This past summer an eleven-year-old and I were discussing Deep Root Center and how it all works. He tossed questions at me faster than I could answer them. Ultimately what I learned from this interrogation was that his impression of self-directed learning is this --- kids choose what they do, no one tells them what to do, there are no grades or quizzes, and the only rule is respect, but, (in his words- and this is huge) “how can the kids (and adults) know that they have learned anything, if they don't have to take a test to prove it?”
The most bewildering piece of this whole exchange is that he is one of the most self-directed kids I know! He embodies intrinsic motivation. He goes after the things he wants and knows how to find the information he needs to get there. Yet, this fifth grader's perception of learning is that he has to take a test to demonstrate his intelligence.
Does this child truly believe that the vast web of knowledge and understanding about the world, that he holds, through his unabashed excitement about life, is invalid because it cannot be tested? And, if he does, what does that say about our need to cling to an antiquated system that places judgment on what classifies as credible expertise?
On Tuesday, we happily welcomed eighteen students for another academic year. We spent the first three days getting reacquainted with each other and the facilities, learning the completely amazing and awesome new portfolio/mentoring software, and developing our individual plans and class schedule for the next ten weeks. We will jump into those plans starting Monday.
If the anticipation and enthusiasm of a new school year have worn off already for your child, Deep Root Center staff is here to help. We will happily listen to your story and offer advice for your child's particular situation. You can get in touch through email or phone (315) 244-3034.
Volunteers: We are still looking for volunteers who would like to: facilitate a class, help create hands-on projects in our brand new Maker Space, share talents and interests or hang out with some awesome kids. Contact us through our volunteer application or send us an email.