Before the start of the new school year, my family took a week-long vacation to Duluth, Minnesota. We had never been there before, but were excited by cool temperatures in July, a beach in the Midwest, and the opportunity for a lot of family fun. During the trip, we visited a children’s museum, a coastal lighthouse, the Aerial Bridge, the Great Lakes Aquarium, the Lake Superior Marine Museum, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and so many other interesting places.
Throughout the trip, my family (five kids ages 2, 4, 7, 9, and 11) had a great time – and asked a lot of questions. With each stop, we learned something. It was a great trip! It also reminded me that school may be a place, but learning is a process. It can – and does – happen anywhere. It happened as we spent 45 minutes learning about the locks and dams along the Great Lakes. It occurred in the replica steam engine, and it certainly occurred standing on the beach of Lake Superior.
With each stop, new questions were asked and answers were sought. We learned, we laughed, and we did it as a family. Now, not all learning is family based, but it is personal. What Grace (my 11-year-old) learned at the aquarium was different that what Elle (my 9-year-old) learned, but it all had value. And don’t even get me started about all the train things I learned from Sam (my 7-year-old) at the old train depot.
Competency-based education does just what this family trip did. It takes what is personal and connects learning to what is necessary. There were a lot of science, math, English and social studies standards met while on vacation. We learned because we wanted to, and ultimately, it will be deeper learning because of our interest.
Competency-based learning holds the potential to take each one of this moments and turn it into a learning experience. We do not need artificial lesson, because real life did it for us. Imagine all that can be learned, is learned, in a single day.
CBE can help us do it better, do it richer, do it deeper.
CBE can help us cross the bridge from “required to know” to “desired to know.”
The Aerial Bridge in Duluth, MN