In my childhood, I had the privilege to play with other kids in the open areas and streets. This free play had a significant impact on developing my social and emotional skills. The most fun-filled experiences we all had were during the summer vacations when we had the opportunity to join the hobby classes of our choice, like painting, clay modelling, dance, etc. In terms of learning, it was the best time we had, taking a break from formal education and the freedom to explore our skills and areas of interest.
CAN LEARNING HAPPEN ONLY AT SCHOOLS?
Children are innately curious and tend to learn from anyone and anywhere. Our responsibility is to facilitate their learning journey so that they learn from everyone and everywhere!
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a significant shift in the mindset of educators and policymakers as they started looking for alternative approaches to formal learning systems. When schools were closed, there was a need to continue learning for children by utilizing the expertise of people who were not educators. As a result, many innovative learning ecosystems or ‘schools’ outside the school were identified, and their profound impact on children’s learning was well observed.
The agencies delivering informal education are known as ‘LEARNING ECOSYSTEMS’, which have supported our societies by providing diverse learning opportunities. WISE and Qatar Foundation have researched many existing Learning Ecosystems and their upcoming models.
WHO ARE THESE ‘UNSEEN TEACHERS AROUND US?
They are the ‘invisible mentors’ around us who have constantly facilitated the kids towards building values, skills, and attitudes. They have always been an integral part of children’s learning from the early years to adulthood and support them throughout life.
IDENTIFYING THE ‘UNSEEN TEACHERS’ IN INFORMAL LEARNING ECOSYSTEMS!
No one can understand the needs and interests of a child more than their parents. Hence, they can provide their children with the best possible learning experience.
Have you ever asked your kids about what they want to learn and found the right learning opportunities? The parents need to realize the importance of parenting and strive to provide personalized learning to their children. Parents can boost kids’ curiosity by engaging them with hands-on activities, field trips, and projects at home. Be a flexible parent. “The Less parents try to control what kids learn, the more they gain confidence in becoming independent learners and leaders of tomorrow.”
‘Grandma’s Tales’- I loved this wonderful initiative by ‘Education above all’ in which they involved grandparents in telling stories from their culture and history. The youngsters recorded these stories and used their creativity in modifying, retelling and publishing their own stories.
The values and morals kids attain by staying with grandparents are far beyond explanation. Grandparents keep the kids engaged and entertained with their conversations, stories and play at home. Children who spend time with grandparents grow into caring, empathetic, and kind adults.
Learning with peers is the most delightful experience for any child. Peers provide excellent support in terms of social and emotional learning. Talking and working with peers release the anxiety and stress children usually don’t share with adults. We can harness the power of peer-teaching in everyday life by involving kids in group games, projects, and other community-based events. Guide them to manage their time effectively when working together on a project and provide them with skills and tools to organize their thoughts and take action.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., can sustain the learning interest and engagement of the students. In addition, social media can broaden kids’ perspectives on various subjects as they learn how to interpret their thoughts and present their arguments.
I would rate Twitter and Linkedin as the best two networks learners can use to share ideas and information, build communities, and find new perspectives. Through such platforms, kids could attend free workshops and conferences where they learn a new skill and have meaningful discussions with expert mentors.
Nature has always been a great teacher to mankind as it develops attitudes of inquiry, curiosity, and compassion. Children are innate inquirers, and nature provides an open learning lab where they can experiment and learn freely. Interacting with natural environments allows children to question, think, learn by doing, and test their ideas. Try finding opportunities for kids to explore and learn from nature by taking them to zoos, national parks, beaches, mountains, and nature walks.
Guide them to ‘LEARN FROM THE NATURE’. For instance, when observing honey bees in the garden, ask them questions such as “What are they doing?” and “Where do you think they live?” That way, you’re improving their observation skills and challenging them to investigate and find answers, boosting up INQUIRY!
6. FREE PLAY AND HOBBIES
Every child is unique and has a different way of expressing themselves. Free play allows a child to learn independently and develop creativity and problem-solving skills at an early age.
A structured education system helps monitor a child’s academic achievement. However, real learning happens when they are allowed to do something that suits their interest and need. It is an enriching experience when kids use their energy to learn and practice a new skill.
I liked the idea of Genius Hour, a trend developed by Google, where employees are allowed to use 20 per cent of their working time to build their “PASSION PROJECTS.” When employees started working on their passion rather than just the regular work, they delivered remarkable outcomes!
Learning Ecosystems serve as the ‘Schools’ outside the school, and they need to cater to what the traditional schools fail to provide, real learning for the real world. When preparing to design Innovative learning Ecosystems for the next generation, we need to integrate and utilize the energy of ‘Unseen Teachers’.
“ARE YOU READY TO EMBARK ON THE JOURNEY OF DEVELOPING AN INNOVATIVE LEARNING ECOSYSTEM FOR CHILDREN?”