Wendy and Lisa are really excited to start the year. Before we do, indulge us in an exercise we will soon do with our students: look outside your window. If you’re already outside, look up. Find a tree.
Got it? Good.
Now, choose a profession. Are you a poet? A painter? A paleontologist? Pick one.
How would someone from your profession look at that tree? What kinds of questions would they ask? A painter might want to know the pigments he needs to make a certain shade of green. A scientist might want to know how long the tree has been there, or what kind of life the tree supports. A gardener might want to know how much water it needs. A poet might ask herself which words best described that craggy bark or the silky leaves. They are all looking at the same tree but they are looking at it for different reasons and throught different lenses. They are all likely to ask themselves very different questions and arrive at very different conclusions.
So why is that important? Because that’s one of the themes we will keep coming back to this year…how the different subjects you learn in school are really just different ways to study and learn about the world. Each discipline has its own toolbox and these are toolboxes we hope to help you fill up.
Why learn history? Because an historical viewpoint is a really interesting way to see the world and it teaches you things mathematics cannot. Why study math? Because a mathematical viewpoint is a really interesting way to see the world and it teaches you things poetry cannot. An historian might tell us what makes democracy strong or fragile. A poet might communicate that in a way that touches people’s hearts. A mathematician might give us a statistical story about voters.
There’s another way we are going to look at different viewpoints, though, and that’s by studying point of view. Why do the writers of the books we read choose a certain point of view from which to tell the story? What is gained or lost by choosing that lens?
How does history change when it’s told through a different point of view? It can be easy to read a textbook or newspaper account of an event and believe that’s the only truth. We often miss that there was a completely different way to look at something. Studying early American history through the eyes of Thomas Jefferson is much different than studying it through the eyes of his slaves. We will strive to find these different viewpoints in all of our studies, and even more importantly, to understand that we are never likely to find and examine all of them. Knowing what we don’t know, or even just that we don’t know, is a major step in become mature learners.
When your kids come home from class and tell you about something they learned, feel free to ask them whose point of view they are talking about at the time and if there’s another one they considered or think they should consider. We will begin our explorations in science looking at the diversity of life, he ways scientists classify life, and taking a close-up look at a local bass. (A very local bass–he lives at the school.) When we study him, are we looking from the perspective of a biologist interested in preserving native species? An economist interested in promoting Michigan fishing? A politician interested in improving water quality? What about the fish? Does he get a perspective?
We are going to have fun this year. Please never hesitate to ask any questions. Wendy and Lisa are available on email (wlawrence at summers-knoll dot org) or (ljohnson at summers-Knoll dot org) or set a time to catch up at the school.
Feel free to drop us a line on this blog’s contact page.