Sugatra Mitra believes that children learn best when they are asked the big questions, like “Why does hair grow and not stop growing?’ or “Does a frog know it is a frog?” or “Why is the sky blue?”
So I thought I would set something rolling with my own kids and see if they were interested. I used Mitra’s website to think of a big question: “What is that big round crumbling down building in the center of Rome and why is it so important?”
So I posed the question. The kids went on to Google Maps and they ended up digging in to the heart of the Coliseum, which lead on to Roman History, Horrible Histories, with hilarious and gruesome discussions about what Romans did to their guests. It set off a great discussion, which went on for days, led by the children.
I thought I would look on Twitter and see if anyone else was working on a similar project. Sure enough, within about 6 hours I got a response, and then began our relationship with a school in New Jersey, USA. We arranged a Skype session and the next thing you know we were skyping with 30 American school kids. Our 5 and 30 of them!
A beautiful relationship began. Their kids sent our kids questions, our kids sent their kids questions. Big questions. They sent us Powerpoint slideshows of their work. My kids wanted to do that. Our girls taught the two Italian kids in our group to use Powerpoint. My 8-year-old son asked how to do it, they taught each other. They sent their slide shows to New Jersey.
Our kids made a movie about bees and how they make pollen – they became the bees. Our son drew a poster about how language was formed and made a short film about it. I helped him as he is younger but he quite liked the fact that a ‘B’ looked like a bottom and an archery bow.
The questions that went back and forth were really great. We had one Skype call where our girls still had the black bee make-up on (from their movie) and the Italian boy and girl in the group were both eating pizza during the session! I heard one kid whisper in the US class, “Those girls have got make up on!”
These American children were watching us, we were watching them, they shared ideas for questions with us, from “how do bees make honey?” to “what was America’s first underground network?”
Through these big questions the world opened up in our living room and having the chance to learn from others was wonderful.
All of this is out there: Children, teachers, parents, unschoolers, schools, creatives, musicians—the list is endless. There are so many people that want to connect. The world really is an exciting place and it is great to be able to let those exciting connections happen.