Opinion
Education Opinion

How to Learn

By Hanne Denney — July 23, 2007 2 min read

I am having an intense learning experience.

I live in Maryland, but I’m currently in St. Louis with my sister and family. My sister Eva is an artist, and her husband Paul is director of a museum. It was open studio weekend, and I visited galleries and studio space with them, meeting lots of artists and supporters of artists. I asked everyone lots of questions. I learned a lot that I did not know before. I saw much that was beautiful, and much that led to more questions.

I also visited the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois -- the remains of a Mississipian tribal city. There is a great learning center on-site for visitors, and a fantastic hike up to the top of the mound. I learned a lot about American early history that I did not know before. I had to work my body hard to climb up the mound. From the top I could see the other mounds left by the Indians. I could see vast acres that had been farmed for decades. In the distance I could see the city of St. Louis with its trademark Arch. I was walking in the footsteps of thousand of others over a thousand years of history -- and seeing it all at once in panoramic view.

This week I also read several books about middle school. I gained experience through other people’s eyes and their interpretations of experience. That has given me a lot to think about as I prepare to enter the Middle School educational program. I read a great novel The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. I had to look up some of the words using a dictionary. I used the computer to find other books by this author so I can read more. I learned something from his words and ideas. I was inspired enough to create a collage using one of the passages from his book. I am not an artist, but it pleases me to see it finished. I have experienced success.

My intense learning experience has incorporated travelling to new places, talking with strangers who are experts, reading books, imagining the lives of other people, walking uphill on a summer’s afternoon, searching the internet, using my eyes to see art and my hands to create art. I asked questions and thought about things. I used my imagination, and the expertise of others to add to my previous knowledge and create new ideas. I experienced learning success.

There is less than a month until we’re all back in school. I have to think about the required curriculum and tests, and plan out lessons according to schedule. But right now I’m just thinking about how to learn. I know how to learn. I’m doing it. That’s the key. I am experiencing learning, even when I am not seeking it out or being told to learn. Learning can’t be turned on when the figurative school bell rings. Or can it? After that, that is our job, right?

Hope I can bring it home in my suitcase. Hope I can bring it back to my students.

The opinions expressed in In the Middle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.