I spent the past week in the Wisconsin Dells at Kalahari Resort with my family. It was a great week and an interesting one as well. I got to spend a lot of time reading while sitting by a pool-one of my favorite ways to relax-and I was struck by a great many things that I read. On my last day at Kalahari I read a post by George Couros titled In Spite of Schools. In this post Couros shows videos from two students who have created projects on their own, in one case in spite of her school's attempt to stop her, with little or no help from the education establishment. His point was in what ways are we limiting our students by not giving them access and time to pursue their passions in school. It was a great post that got me thinking a lot about the coming year, then my eldest daughter came to get me so I could watch her go down a slide.
This was no ordinary slide. The slide was the Screaming Hyena. It stood 60 feet above the waterpark floor, and after being placed in a tube, riders are asked "are you ready" and then the floor drops and they plummet at up to 25 MPH straight down and then into a sloping slide. It is fast, scary, and tall. It also is very much outside the personality of my eldest daughter. She is quiet, not very aggressive, and studious. It much more fits the personality of my youngest daughter the adventurous gymnast who will try just about anything, seems to have no fear, and loves to climb anything she can.
Here was my eldest though, saying "daddy come watch me go down the drop slide". It was an offer I couldn't resist, and captured (after 3 takes) on video.
The best part, beyond watch her conquer her fears, was her response to my question of how was it? "Easy". The next part is where I learned something. I had no intention of getting up on that slide. I had gone down the winding slide that is next to it earlier in the week and come up with a nose full of chlorinated water, and no desire to find out what a straight drop would be like. It is not that I am afraid of speed, or heights, or falling, it's that I don't really relish all three at once. But after watching my daughter go down three times in a row, how could I resist going. Below is video proof, edited because no-one really needs to see me in a swimsuit.
While Mr. Couros wrote of the great things that kids can do in spite of schools and adults at times, and he is correct in his assessment. I got to see what kids could make us do. The lesson didn't end with my going down the slide, but continued into the weekend as I watched my daughters explore the Museum of Science and Industry and take me to interactive exhibit after interactive exhibit and show me what they had done and learned.
If my daughter can get me up on a 60 foot tall water slide, what might my students teach me this year? What would more of learning partnership between students and educators result in? I can't wait to find out.