August 04, 2017

A Lesson in Education (and in reading the Ringing Cedars books)

Atulya Bingham meets a man who lived in the forest for four years and teaches permaculture. The resulting conversation is a great read. I'm posting an excerpt below that illustrates a method of "teaching" described in the Ringing Cedars books.
“What’s this box of dead bird bits for?” I asked at last, unable to ignore it.

“I use it for teaching. It’s great for children.” My host pushed the box a bit closer. I stuck my hand in and rummaged about in the grisly, ornithological lucky dip. A game is a game. You have to play.

“Which bird’s feather is this?” I asked pulling a black and white striped plume from the box.

Ludwig sat back, formed a bridge out of his hands, and shrugged. “What do you think?”

I shifted on my chair. “I’ve no idea. I’m hopeless with bird names, especially in this country. I haven’t lived here for 20 years.” Well, I thought I’d better have some excuse for my ignorance, didn’t I?

“Which part of the bird is it from, do you think? The breast? The wing? The tail?”

I turned the feather over and stroked it. It was soft and silky. “I’m not sure. Not the breast. But could be the wing I suppose.”

Ludwig’s face was deadpan. I held the feather up, and peered even closer at it, hoping to see the bird in it somewhere. But no amount of hard staring drew the answer out. Turning back, I asked again, “Which bird is it?” feeling my eyes straining in curiosity.

Bilbo Gandalf shrugged and sat back. He was giving nothing away. I pulled my chair closer to the table while I racked my brain, trying to haul out mental images of black and white stripy birds that might live around the Scottish west coast. None came to mind.

Eventually, the bird collector stuck his hand in the box once more. He pulled out two more stripy feathers, much longer than the one I was holding. Then he bunched them all together and held them upright. Immediately I saw a tail.

“Pheasant! It’s a pheasant!” I grabbed the three feathers and stroked them lovingly. “Well, that was a bit tricky, you have to admit,” I chuckled. Carefully replacing the feathers in the cardboard box, I mused on the art of teaching. The patience required. How brilliant teachers always stand back and allow students to own their learning experience.

Strictly speaking, this is not really teaching. Which is why I put the term in quotes, because the learning here comes from the student itself with the "teacher" acting only as a facilitator.

The ten-volume Ringing Cedars book series is written with the same premise. This is one of the reasons why some people who read it as a regular book are disappointed with it, unable or unwilling to follow through with the thinking process required to really process and understand what they read.

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