Our educational system is rooted in tradition. The prototypical classroom setup, with the teacher at the front, and rows of students in the room can be traced back to the Jesuit classrooms of the 1500s. As a collector of antique grammar and literature books, you would be surprised how similar textbooks are from the early 1800s (with the exception of new writers). In fact, much of what we teach on school is based on tradition. I am not saying that these traditions are important, but there is so much more to the world.
Because of this, I am a staunch believer in experiential and place-based education. Experiential education is an educational theory that the best learning comes from doing things. Along the same lines, place-based education is a theory that stems from the belief that you should learn based on where you live. Combined, this teaches students to not only learn the skills that are intended, but learn the skills in the context of the community, life, and practicality.
As a professor at Augusta University, I teach two classes on place-based education. In one of these classes I always make the following argument. It seems that in every elementary school there is a unit on the tropical rain forest. In this unit, students learn about animals, the layers of the forest, and the ecosystem.
My point? Why not go outside? We have forests. There are layers. There are animals. And we have ecosystems. Instead of learning about the forest in as an idea, let students touch trees, feel the dirt, see the sun shining through the layers of forest. Things can be measured, counted, and surveyed. Students can write about it. Students can learn the history of the area or create environmental art.
Too often we limit our classroom to the classroom. Our classroom should be the world.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.