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The “Who-Am-I” Project

Originally appears in the Fall 2005 issue

I confess myself utterly at a loss in suggesting particular reforms in our ways of teaching. I advise teachers to cherish mother wit. I assume that you will keep the grammar, reading, writing and arithmetic in order; t’ is easy and of course you will. But smuggle in a little contraband wit, fancy, imagination, or thought. If a child happens to show that he knows any fact about astronomy, or plants, or birds, or rocks, or history, that interests him and you, hush all the classes and encourage him to tell it so that all may hear. Then you have made your school room like the world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Education,” 1840

MANY OF OUR STUDENTS lack a basic understanding of their environment. Partly due to the increasingly urban character of our communities and the proliferation of home computers and game systems, many children report that they prefer indoor play to outdoor activities. We are just now beginning to comprehend the effect this is having on them socially, psychologically, and spiritually. More and more research suggests that outdoor activities play a very important role in the treatment of attention-deficit disorders, obesity, and depression in children.1 Studies in education indicate that using the environment as the context for learning significantly improves standardized test scores, problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and overall behavior.2

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David Rude is a former superintendent/teaching principal. Currently he is an instructor of education methods with National University in La Jolla, California, and he also teaches psychology courses for Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah.