Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Indigo Curriculum Story

by Roger R. Armstrong

In the teachers lounge one afternoon in 1956 Mel Sudd (taught 6th grade in Roosevelt Laboratory School of Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan) and I (I was the Art teacher) came up with this Curriculum. In our previous educational testing, students lost about 6 to 8 weeks of learning over the summer that had to be repeated when school started in the fall. Normal summer school held this loss to 3 to 4 weeks. Mel and I were looking for a curriculum that would stop this loss. He and I started to analyze the Philosophies of Ed. to see if there were clues to a better learning structure. Summerhill, Montessori, Waldorf etc. Then we went to question, "How" does lasting learning (stop that loss) take place? Mel was very interested because I had just helped him by teaching a few students who were disrupting his 6th grade math presentations. We three went in to the long old fashioned coat room, and explored math while Mel continued to teach the class.
I taught that there are no rules, only expected answers. My first question to them was how much is 4 + 4? "Stupid" was the reply. OK I said how many ways are there to get the number 8. They listed all the ways they knew. You are not working with all the data, I commented, so let's add to the list with our new information. We found it necessary to make up symbols to represent "explain" some math group functions. They opened their minds in exploring and reinvented Algebraic theory. I found a book "Do Math Fast" and introduced all the short cuts of mentally bundling numbers etc. In the mean time some of their friends asked Mel if they could join our group. The new were taught by the experienced. Then I found a book written by a WWII interned math professor that developed a math system with the base of 13. More kids joined us. Soon we had more kids in the coat room than Mel had in his class. The experienced taught the new. A lot of teaching was done outside of Math time. They blossomed. When it was time for "regular math" to continue, Mel was confronted by student questions of method, process and a thirst for math that forced his entire math approach and teaching structure to change. Mel and I went over that math event, and wrote a sequence-of-event-structure that developed; to see if we could identify the factors that caused this sudden thirst for math. We came up with self-imposed student identification of challenge, reaction, action, reaction and action. We broke it down into a learning pattern of divergent, convergent, divergent, convergent exploratory thinking, and, how to structure this so the learning pattern will be facilitated.
After much discussion we came up with this broader application of optimized learning, guided by these thoughts:
1) The most significant lasting learning involves all the senses and the most important learning sense is kinetic.
2) All learning is inter-related. If this is truly practiced then the selection of the exploration of a singular subject should not be of concern.
3) The interest, in and the sense of discovery during that subject learning action, would sustain the learning process
4) Students should be treated as "clients not products". [We found that when the student's initial "intention" of learning was filled they would move on to another sequence of learning.] These basic tenants proved positive, when reviewed at the end of the summer session. The students jumped in IQ 15 to 30 points. They also jumped 2 to 4 grade levels. We had a summer school mix of 3rd graders going into 4th etc. 4th, 5th, and 6th graders with some advanced 6th graders that were going to be 7th graders in the fall. Age was not a factor. Gender was not a factor, Race was not a factor. Being a lab school we had the enrollment structure to be determined as a "Near IQ" bell curve. Our program pushed the curve to off-the-charts high side as a near "high flat oval" blob of water form. We were astonished. The Education Department was so astonished they lobbied to have u s shut down as "being to controversial" and disrupting "The Basic Structure of Education." They won. (Even though they were very, very, pleased with the growth of "their" children.)
We staffed the program with experienced teachers that needed student teaching credits. We sent the word out and screened applications. (We were able to reimburse their college expenses with the profits of the Cooking and Business group) The curriculum subject matter evolved through discussion with students and was set at 13 courses. [we added some, dropped others as students requested areas of study. All classes were open enrollment, and ages and study groups mixed together. The day would start in a "home room" Attendance etc. then gather in the gym for class selection Classes were offered twice each day and lasted 1 to 3 hours as interest required. Some classes were structured to allow for drop-ins at any time. In the gym we would have the "What and Where" session informing what was happening and where it was meeting and the students would make their class selections. The same process took place after lunch. Plans for out-of-school-classes would be announced one week o r more ahead and required a parental permission slip, parents were welcomed to join us.
CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:nts decided they would like to explore geometry after a very rocky start by the teacher who told them what they could do on the first day with 20 students. Next class had 1 student. That student asked if she and the teacher could learn geometry. Teacher asked her to think about how can we teach geometry that would involve action. The next class she had 25 students. A third grade girl said "My father say's that 'shooting pool' is all geometry. Everybody said “please.”
Mel and I helped the teacher organize the tools necessary. We contacted the local pool hall and the owner became very interested so he gave us the use of the tables free. With large plastic protractors, blue chalk, fine white thread, and the physics of " measuring applied force and of every action results in an equal reaction" it started. The teacher learned about the science of "pool" and the pool hall owner learned the science and math of geometry and taught correct Cue Stick technique to more-likely prove the geometric theory. We ended renting the entire pool hall and had 90 students plus "out-of-students" teachers participating in the learning and helping to supervise the learning.
2) Creative Writing.
Poetry and One Act Plays were written and preformed added to the entertainment during the cafeteria lunch hour on specific days.
3) The Sciences; Students became involved in the physics of the Pool Hall. The class went fishing, measured the temperature of water at different levels. Set hooks to settle at those levels and determined what level the fish were at by nibbles. The fish were dissected when caught, Drawings of the organs were made and identified and they each opened a stomach to see what the fish were eating to select appropriate bait.
4) Art, during this program Art was not widely selected as an activity. The need for creativity was filled with action and innovative academic exploration. During the year it was "No rules but a seen vision or a recorded reality vision. This philosophy continued during the summer classes. Drawing or painting what was not seen was given equal importance to "what was seen." "How can you draw an orange if you don't know what it tastes like as I passed out sections of orange? "In order to paint an angel you need to become that angel as you paint. (an eastern philosopher's comment.)
During the year life drawing was taught every Friday in all grades. Anatomy of the human body (bones, fat and the 3 layers of muscles) was taught to the 7 grade. The 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students all drew on the college level. Back to the program. The most popular activity was Remote Viewing into paintings at the College Art Gallery or field trips to the Detroit Museum of Art. But it was just a one quick teaching. Art Museum Field trips were popular and remote viewing practiced. [During the school year the Art room was full at lunch and was a requested after school elective. exploration.]
5) Typing, taught in combination with spelling. A super combination. Well attended, as an "off hour" class. It was very possible to work one on one.
6) "Cooking from Scratch" Very popular, took recipes and fractionally increased or decreased them. Pies, cakes, bread, rolls, donuts, coffee cakes, soup, and salads. Fractions ruled in dry and liquid measurement! The School's Kitchen provided the space, tools and equipment for a “cooking” class that enabled the students to bake or cook meals and baked goods “from scratch.” When they baked rolls, bread and pastries, they usually baked extra that they put up for sale. It was a very popular class with both genders equally represented. The kitchen was adjacent to part of the school's cafeteria. Many commuter college students would come there to eat their bag lunch. Our students saw an opportunity and started selling their extra baked goods and offered coffee, ice tea, and lemonade. Encouraged by the response and requests, salads were prepared. The cooking class also involved chemistry as part of understanding the realities of cooking. The selling of their efforts and product needed accounting for, so a Business class evolved to monitor and allocate the funds. Cold sandwiches made to order with the buyers selecting the ingredients and prices were determined per each additional part. As the food service program grew we had Had to split off to create number 7.
7) Starting Your Business. Vendors, ordering, planning, writing business letters. Pricing, percentages, cost, expenses, accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, profit/loss marketing, advertising. Consulted with cooking division, added salads, soups, sandwiches. They made so much money, we were able to purchase equipment for the school. We bought all new electronic typewriters, and funded number 8.
8) Exploration Wednesday afternoon. We organized excursions into the community. Hired a Helicopter to take two students at a time; fly over their house and then fly in a 7 mile spiral. Recruited businesses to teach a student to be part of their business staff for an afternoon. All kinds of occupations were represented. Many parents had local business we tapped into. We also offered field trips and tried to implement any student request.
9) Take Apart. We brought a junk auto that the students took apart and put together under supervision of a retired auto mechanic who was the Grandfather of one of the students. We were able to buy (thanks to "Start Business" and “Cooking”) the sets of tools necessary for many classes.
10) Sports skills taught were offered by request and on different days, Archery; Matt Gymnastics; Basketball, Softball.
11) Photography, still and movie. Two parents had the skill and equipment for five students each. They also recorded the school activities in single pictures and as a movie production with Mel as coordinating adviser.
12) Music. Primarily for experienced students offering Composing, Folk and Jazz. Offered short class in rhythm (second hour of classes to pick up students who had enough of a particular activity) with different rhythm instruments. Also students gave performances in the cafeteria.
13) Journal writing. At the end of each day the students would enter their day’s activities into their daily journal with personal comments on the activities and questions that the activities would bring up to ask the next day. That turned out to be very important. When they went home and the parents would ask "What did you do today? They had their answers ready. Parents loved it. In today's curriculum I would add: Exploring Powers of the mind. Explorations of Realities, Hypnosis How and Why. I would add: Yoga, Tai Chi, muscle identification and control. Sports and mental visualization.

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