I’ve always thought that my children learn best by their experiences. There’s nothing like being hands-on to allow someone to gain knowledge and skill. It’s perhaps the most important area of learning. John Taylor Gatto says, in The Underground History of American Education that
We all need experience, adventure, and explorations more than we need algebra.
Those words terrify me, but I have found them to be absolutely true. This year, we have been studying Genesis at Community Bible Study. It’s been a good study. However, sometimes I have an familiarity with the stories of Genesis that means that I don’t really look at them with fresh eyes. So, when we had the opportunity to go visit The Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum last month, I was so excited.
It was also everything that I imagined, and everything was even more well done than I had hoped.
This is a life size replica. This is how big the ark really was. It is currently the largest freestanding timber structure in at least the United States, and if I remember what they said correctly, the entire world. Even if you’re not a Christian, it is something to see.
I don’t think I’ll ever read the account of the flood and the ark the same way now that I have been to the Ark Encounter. I might before have been guilty of seeing the Ark like this:
I didn’t realize before how much the above image of the ark is damaging to our faith. It takes something realistic and turns it into a myth or a fairy tale. My experience has now affected my knowledge, and in many ways, instead of adding it to an existing schema, I’ve been given an entirely new schema. It seems logical and well-reasoned to believe in the first ark, but believing in the second seems a little delusional. The second ark is definitely going down when the first big wave hits.
For the most part, my children learned a lot from the ark. They were open to the experience and found both museums to be logical and great additions to their knowledge. This is my oldest posing with my Dad. Bennett is very much a “have shoes will travel” type of kid and is always game to try the newest thing, go on the newest tour or learn the newest lesson. It’s just a part of his personality. He complained about his feet hurting, but over a week later, he has brought up several new things that he learned into our conversations. It was great to take him (and my two little kids) to the museums.
However, that doesn’t always mean that immersing someone into an experience guarantees learning. There has to be interest in the experience and openness to learning or no learning is going to happen. That’s why it is so important that learning be based on interest. If we don’t have a schema that is being activated or a desire to learn, it makes learning much more difficult.
The picture above? My second born child (and two littles) at the same museum as the picture of my oldest child above. While three of my children loved and learned the experience, my Emalee simply wanted to go back to the hotel to swim and play her video games. When asked what she learned at the museums, she told me she didn’t learn anything because she already knew it it all. She wasn’t open to learning, so not very much happened. At least she got to swim and to play her games. She also got to eat at a couple of good restaurants, so the trip wasn’t a complete loss.
Just remember, when you are full of hands-on interactive ideas to increase learning, don’t be surprised if your children are not nearly as enthusiastic as you are. Remember that they have needs and desires that differ from yours. Don’t be disappointed. If they reject your learning ideas, they are not rejecting you.
Relationship means that you don’t force them to love some idea or activity just because you love it. I loved every minutes or our trip, and the rest of my children loved most of the trip. Emalee has the right not to love it and not to want to be there. Unfortunately for her, as one child in a large family, she couldn’t get out the trip altogether. At least, she got to do some things that were fun, even if she didn’t love the museums.