The end of summer vacation is a chance to look back on all the memories we made, the adventures we went on. Over the summer we get a chance to let our curiosity wander, to experience things we may not have been able to on a regular schedule. But why does all that have to end with the beginning of the school year?
It doesn’t. All of our experiences help shape us into life-long learners. If you’re part of the education community you’ll have heard that phrase often enough. Basically, the idea is that if children catch that spark of interest in learning they will stay curious outside of school or any regular program. Life-long learning is a way of being that opens up a world of possibilities. Often, the best learning actually happens outside the classroom. The trick is being able to ask questions, follow your hunches and be willing to take risks or try new things to discover what really interests you.
The other day at our place my 12 year old and some friends began experimenting with a water balloon launcher. This fun-filled couple of hours involved physics, collaboration and of course water balloons being aimed at my neighbor’s house, i.e. community integration. They asked all kinds of great questions like how much water could they launch, do yellow ones go further, what if they doubled them up and what happens if two people pull back on it at one time, etc.
This brave new world we’re living in is changing at mock speed, requiring all of us to be flexible problems solvers and risk takers. Going forward, curiosity and learning are going to be key to our success so we have to embrace the fun side of ongoing learning, the kind that involves things we’re interested in and like to do every day. Life-long learning leads to deeper understanding, curiosity and permission to fail and keep trying.
So how can we cultivate life-long learning?
1. Practice asking more and better questions, beyond how, what, where, when. Start with why not? How come? What if? How might we?
2. Think like a Traveler. Tom Kelley, founder of IDEO, believes that paying closer attention to the small details of everyday situations helps us find new solutions to ongoing problems and challenges.
3. Start diversifying your thoughts. Have you and your children gone to any unusual places to learn about new trends or ideas lately? Try sites like Fastcompany and Design Taxi for inspiration. If you normally follow cooking sites try checking out an architectural digest.
Let me know what new things you and your children are learning and where it’s taking you.