“At School Without Walls we are trying to begin with activist-style, hands-on, dive-in, kinesthetic learning.” Graeme (Educator)
The educators and artists in the second year (2012 cohort) were particularly interested in capitalising on the increased opportunities that School Without Walls could provide to engage all the children’s senses and sensibilities. Graeme became interested in the work of Csikszentmihalyi (2002) on the concept of ‘flow’. Graeme wrote about the children’s levels of engagement, ‘being in the zone’, which ‘can provide a state of flow or optimal performance and enjoyment.’
“This is interesting. He describes this state of flow as being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Graeme (Educator)
“Maybe our experience of time whizzing by at the egg is a sign that we are in the zone … ‘in a state of optimal intrinsic motivation’. So maybe the secret of teaching is to provide an environment and activities which keep learners in a state of flow for as much of the time as possible. Play-based learning sounds extremely flow-like. Sitting on the carpet listening to the teacher … less so …” Graeme (Educator)
The group valued giving time and space to this deeper, life-long learning. “They are integrating things – feelings, cognition, embodiment and resourcing them with thoughts, sound and movement, embodied learning.” Catherine (Artist)
Graeme refelects on a day where he set the children the task of explaining additions and subtractions by setting them a shopping task, endoning them with resources (money) and giving them a treasure hunt of items to find and buy.
“We did a variety of different types of calculating during the (shopping) day. The walking around town provided a whole body experience and a chance for experiences to be absorbed through different sensory channels. We invested a whole day to do the same quantity of maths that we could have done in two hours in the classroom. The payback comes in retention of the learning. Increasingly I am seeing that mental processing is made possible by connections in our brain and being in town created memories that were more likely to lodge in the children’s long-term memories and provide permanent reference points to which the mathematical concepts could adhere. Learning about addition is about linking the concept to something personally meaningful.’ Graeme (Educator)