“When you teach a child something, you take away forever her chance of discovering it for herself.”
It has been a very busy year at Tremont Institute!
- Tremont was recently selected by the National Park Foundation as one of only three sites in the country to innovate a series of workshops to inspire, train, and support teachers to conduct citizen science at their schools.
- We designed a new learning model to reflect our approach to experiential education.
- To better understand the needs of teachers and administrators to engage national parks as places of learning, we conducted listening sessions with nearly 50 folks in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
- We launched Smokies to Schoolyards, our program to impact more urban and underserved schools through our new AmeriCorps VISTA partnership.
- We reached more students, teachers, adults, and families through our residential programs in Walker Valley than we have in many years.
Wow, what a year!
These ongoing innovations are simultaneously inspiring and daunting, and there is still much we have to figure out as we chart new paths forward. Yet, in the middle of these varied endeavors, the above quote keeps popping up at Tremont: “When you teach a child something, you take away forever her chance of discovering it for herself.”
I believe this quote has found traction at Tremont because it reminds us that the process of discovery is powerful, it is rousing, it is joyful. People are explorers, investigators, and discoverers. Curiosity is innate and a fundamental part of our personal growth and development.
The growing body of neuroscience research demonstrates that each of us is fundamental to our own learning. Knowledge cannot be thrust upon us; knowledge is created internally based on our personal experiences. Or to put it more directly: Experiential learning works! If you want me to grow as a person, do not simply give me information, provide me an experience to create meaning. I am most engaged when I am outdoors and directing my own learning. That is why our approach at Tremont is centered on programs that are local, personal, and relevant. You, the learner, are included in the experience. You are needed. Education that is personal helps people see how they fit in. It goes beyond taking in facts.
Here is the other powerful aspect to discovery-based learning: each of us is an educator-in-waiting. You do not need a mastery of ecological concepts, local history, or high-tech science to be an impactful educator. What you need is a willingness to go outside and embrace that desire to turn over a rock and see what lies underneath. What you need is the courage to take a kid for a walk and learn with and from them. When they ask a tough question about that tree or rock and you cannot answer, awesome! Go figure it out together and uncover the joy of becoming a co-discoverer.
Lastly, you need a bit of trust. Trust that people love to learn, trust we are imbued with a spirit of discovery, that we are born questioners and rock investigators. Trust that we can and do want to grow our minds and that experience is a master teacher. With a bit of time, courage, and trust, you will never be disappointed in the power of nature as your classroom.