The Little Engine That Can

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” 

John Dewey

In this time of remote learning, we are all adjusting to doing things differently. As experienced educators and as parents who are newly experiencing becoming teachers, the above statement from John Dewey could not be more important at this time. Many parents are finding themselves stressed out about teaching their child new content or a new way to solve a math problem. Experienced educators who are immersed in hands-on and inquiry-based learning practices are wondering how to teach new content through remote learning. Yikes! These are significant challenges. 

These challenges are also opportunities! Let’s remember that ‘doing” is how we truly learn! When I think back to my elementary school experiences, not much is memorable. However, I do remember the few times a teacher took what was considered back then ‘an out of the box’ approach and had us actually do something. My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Meyer, took us outside to look at the engine of his car and taught us about all the parts. I will never forget that afternoon. First, we left the classroom, which was unheard of. Second, he showed us a real engine, not photos or diagrams. Third, it was real and relevant. I had fun, and I remember that day even 40 years later.

This time is unusual for all of us, parents, and educators. Think about the learning experiences that you remember from your childhood. What was memorable? What worked? What was joyful? What helped you learn? I am sure many of you will realize that the experience was relevant to you, related to the real world and that you actually got to do something.

So, all you educators and parents out there, try not to be so hard on yourselves. Maybe once a day, try to have your child/student ‘do something.’ Make it relevant and joyful. Chances are they will learn something, and it will become a memory that will stay with them for years to come!

Some resources to help you get started:

Science Bob Fun science experiments get kids thinking and doing right away

Planting/Gardening Gardening ideas for kids. Fun to do together. Perfect for Earth Day, April 22.

Cooking with Kids Cooking is an excellent way to learn about science, math, and so much more. 

Remember, all the ideas above also teach kids about many executive function skills such as planning, organization, and flexibility.