School’s out but learning must not stop


It’s now mid June and the kids are out of school, but that doesn’t mean we stop pushing them. Whether they’re your children or grandchildren, spend some time with them and put them in situations where they have to think. Stimulate their minds.
I’ve taught many teenagers in my teaching career and I’ve noticed a deficiency that seems to be getting worse. Kids don’t think unless they have to. They’re conditioned to regurgitate information, not process it and draw conclusions. We must change that.
I think every child should be homeschooled. Before my colleagues or anyone else jumps stiff legged at my seemingly flippant comment, let me explain. I’m a strong supporter of our public schools, but we all need to supplement what kids get in school. It shouldn’t conclude when the school day or year ends.
Take your children and grandchildren out for a walk. Point things out to them and ask them to describe what they see. Ask open ended questions, ones that can’t be answered by a yes or no. Kids need to learn how to think. It’s not enough to get the right answer. We must strive to learn why.
For example, have you ever noticed that you rarely find little pine trees in a stand of larger ones? You often find plenty of different types of trees though. Certainly there are plenty of pine seeds available. Something is keeping those seeds from growing.
What conditions do plants need to grow? Are all plants the same? Most people never think about things like that, but we know that some plants require more light than others.
Pines are intolerant trees. They can’t develop under dense shade. If we selectively harvest an area we will eventually rid it of intolerant species. That’s why clear cuts are necessary sometimes. Kids have been conditioned to think clearcutting of trees is a bad thing. Sometimes it is or at least if improperly done, but it’s an important forest management tool.
What happens if sediments from a construction site or a field enter our waterways? What domino effect is set in motion by decreasing light levels in some types of lakes, rivers, or streams? What happens if the stream dynamics change such as a gravel bottom becoming a mud bottom? What are the life requirements of the aquatic residents of these places, especially those that can’t move somewhere else like plants and filter feeders? We need to encourage kids to problem solve for themselves.
Nature provides so many situations for thought and analysis. Changing environments and land management can favor one species over another. There are endless questions to be asked and they all can’t be answered by A, B, C, or D in some type of memorized response.
I know I’m prone to come up with biological examples, but there are plenty of questions to be pondered. Spend time with our kids. Try to encourage them to notice what’s around them and use their brains. Everyone can be a teacher in some capacity.
Homeschooling is critical for the success of our young people. Unlike some folks, I view it as a necessary supplement not the total package. Kids gain valuable social skills simply by having to interact with others and work in team situations. Whatever your educational preferences are for your loved ones, please don’t let their education take a hiatus during the summer.

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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One Response to School’s out but learning must not stop

  1. Caylie says:

    I completely agree! In fact, I recently posted something similar on my own blog entitled Summer time and the livin’s easy”. Great post.

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