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.