We found this monster today. He’s a Hickory Horned Devil1. We researched him- learned about his habitat, that he’ll eventually become the regal moth, and the fact that he’s just about ready to burrow into the soil for pupation.
We’ve found a lot of animals and insects this summer. Everything from tortoises to caterpillars- all by chance. They each led to more knowledge for my sons but more importantly they’ve increased their interest and curiosity about nature and science.
That’s what I want out of schools. I want them to create more opportunities for teachable moments, more chances for kids to follow their passions and interests, more pathways and more flexibility. I want schools orchestrating chances for serendipity.
What I see instead are multiple choice tests and many, many more multiple choice tests to prepare you for the final big multiple choice test. What little chance, individuality and spontaneity left is getting stripped out and we pretend to wonder why teachers quit and students are bored.
Serendipity is the enemy of standardization. Serendipity happens when your class is out in the woods and finds a giant, terrifying caterpillar even though you’re supposed to be looking for leaves2. You supplement serendipity by letting kids use class time to research this monstrous worm despite the fact that it isn’t on any state test. You talk about it. You let it interrupt your leaf lesson because this has them on fire to learn more.
In our standards driven, multiple choice, centralized pacing guide world we’re doing our best to crush serendipity, as well as individuality, and education is far worse for it.