11 April 2012

Imagination, Internal Motivation, and Real Reward

When my great friend Leigh Graves Wolf sent me the link to the "Caine's Arcade" video (below), she said I had to "watch it now." And I did. And it encapsulated, for me, so much of what we are trying to describe as "The Iridescent Classroom" - the replacement of "teaching places" with "learning spaces."

freedom to learn...
As you watch this short film, you will see what children are capable of when they are given space for their imaginations to roam, when they are liberated from the external motivators of "grades" and other traditional assessments.

Because Caine is not - in my experience - unusual in his capabilities, but rather, what is unusual is the playing field offered to him by his father. It is a blank canvas of a playing field, which rewards imagination and internal motivation. As I watched, I thought back to my own son's childhood - the cardboard box buildings he so loved to make, the tree house he and his eight-year-old friends built without adult design help (and with only surreptitious (late night) adult construction help) - and I thought of my son's rant this past Christmas against Lego kits and pieces so specialized that they stripped the imagination out of play.

Other parents on our block in North Muskegon, MI doubted my sanity and parenting skills - especially as kids began coming home from my backyard scraped from falls from the tree house construction site - but I always preferred to let my kid - all kids - find their own way to knowledge. No one got badly hurt at the tree house, and it completely eclipsed the store kit climbing tower I had built two years before - because the tree house belonged to the kids in every way.

Later, some of those same kids would medal in the Odyssey of the Mind structures competition. Today, they are all capable of creation in their adult lives.

Caine has that open playing field, and he has seized it. His motivations have nothing to do with those prescribed by schools, they lie purely in his curiosity and quest for knowledge. And when a real reward comes Caine's way, it is not a grade, it is not a score, it is not something which compares him to others - the reward comes on Caine's terms, his accomplishments are recognized in ways he understands and appreciates.

So where in your school, in your classroom, is the space for Caine's Arcade?

- Ira Socol

1 comment:

David said...

When I watched this video, I was brought back to my childhood and remembered all of those electronic devices I dismantled in my attempt to understand how they worked, and I cried.

Thank you.