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Mr. Harvey's 5th Grade Class

Mr. Harvey was a teacher that changed my life. His classroom was "hunter heaven" with stuff hanging from the ceiling and colorful stuff all over the walls. The desks were rearranged about evey month or so, but we never sat in rows all facing the blackboard. We never sat still for more than an hour, at most, at any one time. We if we weren't playing "capture the flag" some an afternoon, he'd up and say "we're all going over to the high school for a tour" and off we'd go. On the way, he'd pull ice cream bars from his pocket and give it to one of us. We learned to make "peanut butter apples" and had a whole section learning how to recognize different smells with a blindfold on. But with all this potentially "non-academic" activity, I think I learned more in that classroom than in the whole rest of my school years combined.

When I look back, one assignment crystalized what he achieved with me. He presented us with an assignment that were inherently intriguing: "what do people in another place live like?". The hand out he gave us was a single page covered from top to bottom with questions. "What do they eat?" "Where do they work?" "What's the weather like?"  etc. He talked to us about this until, I at least, was *extremely* curious. Then *never asked us to hand the assignment in* or followed up in any authoritative way. He checked in after weeks or months, personally, "so how do people live in that place?" I wouldn't know. "I thought you were really into that?" (I had been). The upshot: I learned *I* was ultametely responsible for my own learning - it was up to me.

He did a very similar thing with science expiriments. I remember I cut up slices of apple and put different things on them: lemon juice, sugar water, salt, etc. I was going to see which solutions kept the apple slices from turning brown the longest. I got it all set up, put it on the counter in the classroom then promptly forgot all about it - except to feel vaguely guilty each time I glanced at it, because I wasn't following through. After a while passed, Mr. Harvey asked me "so what keeps apple slices freshest the longest?" I didn't know. We both looked at my abendoned project. He didn't frown or say anything more. He let *me* make *myself* feel regret - regret for what I could have learned and didn't because I didn't pursue what I'd started.

He showed me I could use the focusing abilities I had for *longer term* prey - an adaptation of my *strengths*.  A root he restored me to that state of wonder in the world around me that I'd had as small child but  had been driven out of me with my (then) 5 years of exposure to "traditional" educational systems. If we can bring that sense of wonder  - that sense of the great adventure that life on this planet trully is - back to "education" then all of human society will benefit..

© 1997 Robin A. NíDána

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