Letter to the editor: Student learning should include problem solving

When discussing school district changes, let’s reassess what learning methods will best prepare students for the world’s present and emerging needs. Over the past century, a competitive educational system has groomed students to participate in a capitalist, consumer lifestyle. Today’s health, environmental and social crises are the costly results of that programing. We still teach to the standardized test, and seniors compete for college educations that will leave them deep in debt and stuck in the profit race … while other classmates are left behind in our stratified world.
I feel that 2021 is the perfect time to envision a new way forward, tailored to our beloved, vital, rural communities. I feel our biggest opportunity in education now is for students and adults to learn together about our current pressing issues, and to collaborate on inspiring projects to address them. Students would share their valuable perspectives and discover their strengths and interests in meaningful areas: food security, health, racial justice, the arts, technology, conflict resolution, carbon sequestration, affordable housing, weatherization and efficiency, water quality, waste management, regenerative agriculture, broadband and many more.
There are already successful student-adult learning projects in the area. We have plenty of real-life opportunities for piloting solutions and inspiring change. Community volunteers, businesses and nonprofits appreciate working together with students toward a resilient and just society, while also empowering youth in relevant ways for their journey forward. Multi-age groups are finding they have complementary skills needed for the radical changes life is asking of us today. Are local school district leaders willing to enter into deep exploration with our communities to identify partnerships for experiential learning? Are our communities ready to step up and generously offer our time, skills and creative guidance? Can we generate a more affordable learning model together?
Enabling students to participate as our world is simultaneously breaking down and reinventing itself may be a promising option that the legislature would consider supporting. Presently the legislature is tasked with addressing most of the issues cited above. And they’re also being asked to rethink education as budgets and facilities groan on the chopping block. How can our elected leaders support new affordable models that include a generous portion of community-based, experiential learning?
“It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s make sure our villages have the legal structure to fully engage. Maybe we actually have the human capital among us to balance a locally imagined, “heal our earth and communities” school budget.
Sally Burrell

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