What If a Bird Went to Flying School?

We all know how birds learn to fly.  The mother and daddy bird feed and care for their young until they are developed enough to push them out of the nest.  Birds fly by nature and discover their wings in the space between the nest and the ground.  But what if we ignored the nature of birds and flight?  What if a bird went to flying school?

In flying school, birds would be gently eased from their nest onto a high platform where a teacher would show them wing shapes and colors.  They would learn to count feathers and sing songs about how much fun it is to fly.  At the end of the term, the young birds would take an elevator down to the next platform where they would learn about different types of trees and nests.  They would hear stories about heroic birds that flew long distances.  They would take important tests about “flying comprehension” that would allow them to descend to the next platform where they would learn the history of flying in different countries and they would see books with birds from around the world.  They might even get to visit the local Museum of Flying.  On the next level, they get to use computers to write about flying and watch videos of birds flying.  Then, finally, after passing many tests on trees, nests, bird history, and flying comprehension, they are released at ground level where they would attend a graduation recognizing that they now know how to fly.

Of course, birds don’t learn to fly that way, nor would they.  Why?  Because it ignores the nature of birds and the nature of flight.

So, what about the nature of people and the nature of learning?  People are curious by nature.  Give them the freedom to explore and they will explore.  We do not need someone to tell us how to be curious or what to be curious about or to teach us curiosity.  It is part of our nature.

On learning, I am continually inspired by a quote from Herbert Simon, one of the founders of the field of Cognitive Science, a Nobel Laureate, and professor at Carnegie Mellon.  He said,

“Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks.”

Learning happens with the student, not with the teacher and not even with the presence of a teacher.  Technology has come to a point where content is no longer a scarcity possessed only by teachers.  It is abundant and freely available to all through a multitude of books, resources, and the internet.

If we want to produce students who are independent thinkers, we must give them the freedom to think… independently.  If we want to produce students who are life-long learners, we must give them the freedom to learn, to struggle, to fail and to try again.  Metaphorically, we must push them out of the nest and allow them to fall in order for them to discover their wings and fly.

This is why the Sudbury School of Atlanta is such a deep and special experience.  We recognize the nature of people and the nature of learning and we create our school accordingly.

At the Sudbury School of Atlanta, we do not teach your young bird to fly.  We are the space between the nest and the ground where they will discover their wings.

-Dave