This amazing learner loves inventing. This is his car invention. It has a roof, a steering wheel that moves, headlights and windscreen wipers. He planned these ideas himself, listened to feedback from his friends, used those ideas to improve his learning, came back and tried again. He built this car over the course of several days, thinking and rethinking; letting ideas bubble up, perusing pictures of cars and adding details. It was a joy – for him and those around him.
In this example of child-initiated learning, there is, as we would call in the Learning Power Approach, a “full mental workout” going on. In order to complete such a project, this child had to carefully plan his ideas, listen to and respond to feedback, revise and edit his plan. During this process, he learned the value of trying out one idea and then adapting it, of persevering when things didn’t go to plan, or taking time to step back, take stock and come back to learning afresh with a new perspective.
There was also a lot of learning and applying of skills – writing, drawing and revising plans, learning about shape, materials, joining techniques, explaining thinking and listening to other children’s thinking, researching, presenting.
In order to have this depth to learning, this learner needed space – some time in the day that wasn’t rigidly restricted by a timetable. He needed “permission” – to understand that it was absolutely okay, if not expected, to make mistakes, for things not to work, to have to try a different way – that this would all be taken in good humour and trust that the answer, or answers would come with some “tinkering” or time away from the problem. He also needed to feel his idea was valuable and valued. As adults, we have the power to give these positive messages – in the way we plan our timetables, in the language we use, in the ways we choose to interact (or not) with children – we have the power to give these messages and we have the power to take them away.
This is the gift we have now with our children. Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to imagine and create new ways of thinking and learning at home. Let children be free to build a project like this; let them follow their ideas, creations and imaginations. You never know where it might lead. This can be a really supportive approach to learning for parents trying to juggle working from home with supporting children with home learning. With some enthusiastic co-planning at the beginning, once children are set up with an idea they love and feel motivated by, they will happily become absorbed in making their idea into a reality for hours. As adults, we can check back in, asking:
- How is your project going?
- What bits have been tricky? Have you been able to solve them yet? Maybe we can think of some ways together?
- What else do you think you’d like to add to make it even better?
And, teachers, with this forced time away from the physical classroom, I wonder whether we can re-imagine days back at school that would allow just a little more time for ideas or creations like this to bubble up and evolve. Because, by giving this time, we give children a chance to be themselves, the revel in the joy of learning and, just maybe, play with ideas that could create value in our world.
P.S. For provocations and ideas to get you started, check out Dominic Wilcox’s Little Inventors. Every day, they are posting a new ideas for children to get inventing.
Building on this idea, in our school next term, we are having extended foci – Little Engineers, Little Scientists, Little Explorers – the sky is the limit for open-ended and meaningful learning opportunities we can provide for children at home. And our collaboratively focus for Learning Power Pioneers this term is to plot and plan exciting, deep remote learning opportunities. There are still a few spaces left if you’d like to get plotting with us!