The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
– Albert Einstein
I have always loved learning. I have no idea why – maybe it’s genetic, or my childhood experiences, but regardless, my world is based on the knowledge I have, and what wisdom I hope to gain. Starting in kindergarten, I devoured picture books, wrote mundane stories with horrific spelling, and developed a vested interest in all things equine. Middle school introduced me to the mysteries of Spanish and allowed me to realize that, yes, math could be enjoyable. I began experiencing culture, too, with service work and the opportunity for international travel. While most pre-teens complained about the boredom they suffered in Humanities, I was generally quite eager to attend school.
Lately, though, I had been having trouble remembering why I enjoyed school. Some nights, when I had a test on logarithms, a formal oral presentation on Mexican culture, and a budget plan due, I found that I didn’t care. I didn’t want to learn. My apathy scared nobody more than me.
I applied to my school because of its strong reputation as a school that fostered independent, creative learning, and I have no doubt that the education here lives up to those standards. With today’s driven culture, however, teachers sometimes narrow the bands of learning to whatever material students can be tested on. Whatever interesting historical figure you have just discovered transforms into a mindless series of dates, facts, and broader global significance, all of which will be regurgitated on the test Monday. History class in freshman year slipped from an investigation of the ancient world to material that I barely remembered past final exams. Last summer, I found myself dreading the return to classes and the workload that would immediately come tumbling down onto my head. Endless hours of homework and constant pressure had swamped my desire to learn under the desperate struggle to maintain my grades.
Then I walked into the first day of Age of Exploration.
Our first day, we discussed how to solve mysteries, and we were told that the goal of this class was to become historical detectives. Our first project, an event that normally would have been cause for despair and sleep deprivation, allowed me to delve into the political implications of the 1452 fall of Constantinople. Instead of grimly committing a chronology to memory, I was able to interpret history as I saw it, and in doing so gained much more from the project.
I am so grateful for the project-based class Age of Exploration, because the curriculum is not structured for the dry assessment of students’ capabilities. Instead, the class focuses on researching areas of personal interest and sharing the new-found information with one’s peers. Age of Exploration is the one class where I learn for the sake of learning, not for a grade. This reflection that I’m writing, for instance, was not a demonstration of my ability to recite dull history books, but an opportunity for me to remember why I love to learn.
“Stressed Student.” Photograph. First Last. 2010. Web. 27 Oct 2011. <http://blog.case.edu/casedaily/2011/04/06/the_daily>.
“Child Learning.” Photograph. First Last. 2011. Web. 27 Oct 2011. <http://www.lift-off.org.uk/114_Your Influence on Your Child’s Learning.html>.