6 Moments, 1 Week of Moon Trees

Redwood Moon Tree Monterey, Ca

Each week of life brings “moon tree” moments of learning that lead to thinking both forwards and backwards in our efforts to make sense. We humans search moment to moment among nodes and hubs of networked knowledge and ideas that eventually result in new connections and questions, a latticework of thought. Here’s six moments for February 21-27.

1) Forrest Gump: I grew up in South Carolina near the coast and I’ve relatives living in Beaufort where Forrest Gump was filmed. I’ve watched it again this week and was caught by a scene in which Mrs. Gump was forced to process a graph showing Forrest’s intellect as below others of his age in elementary school. The principal wanted to move him out of the school because Forrest wasn’t “normal.” His mother responded:

Mrs. Gump: What’s normal anyways?

My question:  How does this word shape our perspectives upon children in our care? Would the scientists and astronauts who put us on the moon have been considered “normal” students? Was John F. Kennedy “normal” in school? What about the autistic researcher, Temple Grandin?

2) Two tweets: were posted to me by two smart, talented, committed, young teachers in response to a question about creating a critical mass of passion in schools for kids and teachers.

  • School was the reason I had no interest in school until HS.
  • High school was my LEAST favorite… I wasn’t a “smart kid”.

My question: What must we do to ensure that young adults leave our care as confident, capable, interested learners?

Sycamore Moon Tree: Goddard Space Station, a space for creativity

3) Three Threats to Creativity: by Theresa Amabile, Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Amabile shared in this post that lack of the following three conditions threatens creativity in the private sector today and that “the first threat to business creativity is our endangered education system.” Here’s what she says a work environment needs for creativity to thrive:

1)    smart people who think differently

2)    Passionate engagement

3)    a creative atmosphere

My questions:  If, as Amabile says, mandated curricula closes down creativity in our schools, why do we keep filling up the white spaces in our kids learning environments with more and more curricular-driven work? How do we make sure kids get to do “moon tree” work?

4) A Forum: UVA’s Darden School of Business hosted a Black Business Student Forum which drew participants from the current cohort of MBA students as well as alums of the B-school.  The theme of the panel on which I served along with Daria Hall of the Education Trust and Sara Mead of Bellwether was “Educating Youth for Today’s Economy. Are We?”

My  answer: No.

My questions: Why aren’t we? Who’s going to come up with the next generation of “moon tree” projects if we don’t?

Booker Ele Moon Tree: Growing for 30 years

4) @NMHS_principal: a tweet about Eric Shenninger from the national NASSP conference reminded me of last summer’s leadership retreat when he Skyped with principals to share his use of social media communication tools, a learning shift that pushed him to adopt and adapt contemporary technologies he had previously resisted using.

RT @NASSP: #nassp2011 nmhs_principal telling his journey from anti-device to advocate. Hear more at Nassp.org/podcasts

My eternal questions:  Why do some educators continue to evolve both practice and thought over their careers while some don’t? What keeps “moon tree” learning alive for adults throughout their careers?

5) McMurphy: “A little change never hurt, huh? A little variety?” ~ McMurphy responded to Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in an effort to get her to change the daily work schedule so the guys could watch the world series. It only caused more grief for them. She defined herself as in charge by withholding permission. McMurphy couldn’t get the votes for change. The guys feared the asylum’s pack leader, Nurse Ratched, too much to join McMurphy’s effort to create a change movement – to seek safety in the world outside, a world beyond their fog.

My question: How do we build and sustain the critical mass necessary to change structures that impede academic choice and learning options? How do we make sure a new generation gets to explore, investigate, design, create, build?

Olympia, Washington Moon Tree

6) “moon” tree project: This story began with an Oregon smokejumper who became the Johnny Appleseed of astronauts. His personal items on the Apollo 14 mission included tree seeds. They went to the moon, came back, and were planted all over America. Then, the project was lost until Indiana third graders kindled interest in “moon trees” as part of a class project. Now, NASA has taken up the hunt to find the 30 to 40-year-old “moon trees” growing all over America.

My question: What can we learn from “moon trees?”

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

John F. Kennedy, 1962

1. Go to the moon. If we’re to build a new economy grounded in a passion for creativity, we must change our learning spaces, in a big way.

2. Lessen and expand curricula. We all need to open our doors to new ideas, new opportunities, and new technologies that provide young people with the learning choices they need to become passion-driven, confident, competent “moon tree” learners.

3. Plant seeds. Things don’t often change over night. We have to nurture change by planting new ideas, new perspectives and points of view on the why, what, and how structures need to change. Don’t give up on the seeds. Keep watering.

4. Ask and encourage questions. Questions push us to think. Questions push us to change. Questions are the essence of the curious human. Questions are why yesterday’s “moon” seeds became today’s “moon trees.”

Sun on the Booker Elementary Moon tree

About pamelamoran

Educator in Virginia, creating 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people. I read, garden, listen to music, and capture photo images mostly of the natural world. My posts represent a personal point of view on topics of interest.
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