Science Merendas

When I attended primary school, you weren’t there to express your potential or develop social skills; even getting an education was an afterthought: you went to school because you damn well had to, period.

This translated pretty straightforwardly in learning techniques. Verbs? 50 by next week, all of them irregular of course. Multiplication tables? Memorizing up to 14 times 14 was “ok, what do you expect, a medal?” Up to 10 times 10 was just short being a social pariah.

I had to stumble upon Martin Gadrner’s “Mathematical Games” column on Scientific American to discover that studying is boring but learning is exciting. There I discovered that previous generations of students had developed all sorts of mnenomics, tricks and hacks to reduce the bore and improve the overall results.

School has changed greatly since then: no one would dare lock a 12-year old in his room until he can sing the multiplication table of 14 or the assigned 50 irregular verbs. This, I guess, is good. What is not good is that no one seems willing to ask a 12-year old to know *any* multiplication table. Or verb collection, for that matter.

“You can’t force, them, they’ll learn in their own good time, there are more important things to learn”. Granted, but we’re missing the forest for the trees. If it’s not multiplication tables, let it be world capitals (Upper Volta: Ouagadougou), chemical elements, soccer team lineups, whatever.

Kids need to learn, and to learn by heart, for the sheer unadulterated pleasure of finding out they can. It’s their first way of outsmarting adults, and it’s an important one, it tells them they can rely on themselves and be self-sufficient.

Of course, memorizing is just the first step. In these connected times, the ability to find and trace relations among disparate branches of knowledge is equally fundamental (trailblazers, anyone?). Alas, even this skill is overlooked in education. Most teachers seem to mistake a copy-and-paste of different (unchecked) Internet sources as “ability to draw connections”.

You get my point. Kids no longer have to endure old-times methods, but no longer are they required to meet old-times standards, now that they have tools at their disposal to pulverise them. There’s just no reason kids have to wait till high school or University to discover mind maps. Or the pomodoro technique. Or Kanban (yay Shirly!). Or mnemotecnics. Or the fun of learning.

So, I invented the “Science Merendas”. It’s a summer assignments/learning techniques/science experiments/foreign languages/stargazing/great merendas week. Thanks to my friends who run a gorgeous agritourism we involved some first-class helpers:

Together, we’ll try to reinstill curiosity and awe into a generation that’s growing up believing thse only belong in their facebook account. Oh, and just to make things simpler, it will be a “no cellphone week“…

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