This class also had a make-your-own-sundae party.
Families were invited. The children served the peach ice
cream. The room was decorated with their charts, graphs, sto-
ries, drawings, and photographs. This party was a celebration
of weeks of learning about something familiar to everyone.
Meanwhile, the children were already talking about their next
project for study: refrigeration! During the ice cream study,
Emily’s grandfather had told her about cutting ice from nearby
lakes in winter to store and use for iceboxes in summer. Many
of the children had never heard of pre-electricity refrigeration.
They all swam in the lake where Emily’s grandfather had cut
ice in the “old days.” They were fascinated by this story and
curious about how food was kept fresh before electricity. Their
learning was spiraling in new directions.
This story is an example of what Dewey would call an
educational experience. The teacher observed and asked ques-
tions to find out what the children already knew. She set up
experiences for them to discover things they didn’t already
know. She used her knowledge of child development to plan
curriculum that was age appropriate, and she documented
the children’s learning to support her understanding of their
thinking. The success of the project is measured by the fact
that it led into the next area of study. The children were left
curious, wanting more, and confident in their ability to dive
in and satisfy their curiosity.
Dewey in the Twenty-First Century
A colleague with whom many of the ideas in this book were
discussed for months prior to its publication used to have long
talks with me about teaching. We both found ourselves con-
cerned by the extent to which many of the teachers we spoke
with had strong notions about paid planning time and articu-
lated that when they left the building their job should be done
until they return.
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