Thursday, May 10, 2012

What was Mr. G doing with those darn buckets?!

The other day I glanced down at the quad open area in the school where I teach and saw Mr. G with his students assembled towards one edge of the open area with pairs of students laboring under a bucket full of water each walking towards the far end of the quad. Mr. G is known for his innovative approaches to creating student learning so I was not entirely surprised by these proceedings but nonetheless wondered what he was up to. I had an inkling of what it might be all about but decided I would go right to the source and check with the students.

When some of Mr. G's group came up to my class at the period change, I asked them what they were doing messing around with the buckets and weren't they worried the principal might not appreciate them getting the astroturf in the quad wet?!

"We we're learning about what it is like in the farming communities and the small towns in many parts of the world where there is no running water!” a student said, bursting with enthusiasm.  “Dr. Andy, it’s so hard, those people have to carry that water for many miles up hills and in the really hot weather just so they can wash and cook,” the student explained.

“It is a very hard life and it affects the health because the water is not clean” a second student continued.  “It is not fair in a world where others have so much wealth” a third student added.

This lesson had quite an impact on me, thinking about it at home later that night, I realized how many times I had seen somebody carrying a bucket of water or food on their shoulders in National Geographic or on the television and had barely thought about it. 

Of course I know intellectually about the poverty, but, even with my wife having grown up in a community with many of these same challenges, I had never really experienced it.  My feeling was that those kids would never forget the reality of what they had experienced in that class, and I can hazard a guess that it may well impact their career and life choices as well as how they may contribute to their communities for years down the road.

I had a chat with Mr. G and commended him on his efforts. I also told him of the impact what he was doing may be having and how important this type of lesson was in developing empathy and compassion.  He verified this, telling me he has high school students (Mr. G teaches middle school values) who often come back and talk to him about the ‘bucket lesson’ and the impact that it had on them.  It is often one of the most memorable moments for them as students.

When you can take something and make it real, make it experiential, the impact can be great, and can often last years.  All of us remember something from school or our earlier years that sticks with us, that is so real we can go back to that moment and re-experience it like it was now, with the words, feelings and pictures still intact.

For all of us, especially those of us involved with younger children, the more we can bring the learning into the touch and feel and see realm of life, the greater, more powerful and lasting will be our impact.

Blessings to all of you!

Dr. Andy

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