The Value of the Learning Experience

Marilyn Kennedy Wall

This was written by Marilyn Kennedy Wall. She begins by referring to a CU-SeeMe online party that was organized as part of the LFS program in October of 1995.

Mother Nature Cancels Out Cu Party

Friday evening just as people were getting ready for the weekend, torrential rains, streaks of lightning and high winds came roaring through the Valley. Our high school football games were cancelled; warnings of flash floods and possible tornados were broadcast over the local radio and television stations. And, as to be expected, came the usual power outages up here in the mountain resort where I live. So as I am well accustomed to doing, I lit the candles, made a fire in the fireplace, and listened to the wind and rain beat against the skylights. Snickers (my Schnauzer) snuggled up on his pillows, settling in for this stormy evening. As I looked up through the skylights and out the floor to ceiling panels of glass and saw the trees swaying precariously back and forth, I questioned the wisdom of building my house in the middle of all these woods.

7:00pm....8 pm...Still no power. Guess I wouldn't make that CU party in Mountain View! I made my way to the kitchen, getting out some wine, bread and cheese, and I sat by the fire and "partied" in spirit. I thought about the all the new experiences, all the new friends that have come about through this LFS project. I thought about how it was technology that furthered the human connection between people who might not otherwise have been connected.

As is often the case after a storm, Saturday was perfectly beautiful; sunlight came streaming through the trees, and the woods were basked in that golden autumnal glow. Late that afternoon, as I glanced out my kitchen window, a doe and her twins were foraging in the back yard; in fact, they were getting ready to bed down for the evening. A more gentlier side of Mother Nature!

Stretching my Horizons and Becoming the Student Once More: Reading some of the recent "discuss LFS" messages, I noticed there are a few like myself who are anxious to get ready for the next "Live from" project. From my own experiences with LFS, I want to be sure "I am prepared" so I can better understand the concepts involved and share them with my students.

As adults we often forget what it is like to learn something "new". To our students, we look all knowing; what they are "struggling" to comprehend seems to be so "simple", so matter of fact to us. Every few years I try to venture into something I know nothing it horseback riding, skiing, opera, or computers. To be a better teacher and to remember the "process" of learning, it is important to put ourselves in their shoes, to remember what the struggle is like!

And so last weekend, while I was in Washington D.C., I went to a "real" bookstore and picked up copies of "Discover"(with its article "The Unseen Solar System...Hubble finds the place 200 million comets calls home"), Sky and Telescope, and something called "Astronomy presents...Observer's Guide 1996". I was going "to be prepared" for this next "Live from session"! HA!Not quite so simple!!

This week as I attempted to read various articles, I couldn't help but think of my students. I was experiencing the same "mental" struggle of trying to comprehend and understand a "new" perhaps even "foreign" concept. Just like the kids, I would look at the pictures in these astronomy magazines, using them as cues to understanding whatever the article was about. Rather impressive if not awesome pictures! I even studied the ads. To a neophyte like me, even these ads were informative; I was totally unfamiliar with products like these! Now, I am sure that our LFS friends at NASA and experts like Roger in Texas who have a foundation in all this "stuff" have a huge smile on their face as they read this "confession"; but for the newcomers like myself, understanding this "new stuff" is at times overwhelming. But, it is also an ADVENTURE and is totally EXCITING.

And so it must be with our students. Learning is a struggle, at times frustrating; but the challenge of learning is an adventure and the winning of this challenge is the empowerment of our students (and ourselves).

So perhaps by the time LFH begins, I will have assimilated some of this "new" knowledge, feeling comfortable almost natural with the concepts involved. Perhaps I will even feel prepared. And for the staff of "Live from" work on that Teacher's Guide...there are those like myself who are anxiously awaiting its arrival. The money and self-addressed envelope are waiting!!!

Marilyn Wall
John Wayland Elementary
Bridgewater, Virginia

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