We started our first day off with our Grade 7 students with a question “Why did you come to school today?” The answers, needless to say, was intriguing – and the most common answer was “cause my mom said I had to go”.

Our theme for 2020 is Deep Learning which refers to valuable learning that sticks, but how on earth do you get a 13-year-old to see value in coming to school let alone to value learning itself? Is it through bribery and coercion? I would like to suggest that it is by helping them find value by finding meaning or reason by asking questions and then questioning their own questions.

It was interesting that after we did this exercise and asked them to question their own thinking that they soon came to discover that it is not because their parents want them to come to school that they are here, but because, deep inside, they want to.

Let me illustrate how this was done using an age-old method created and employed by Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of the automatic loom company that would eventually become Toyota Motor Corporation called the ‘5 Why-s’.

Teacher: “So, why did you come to school today?”

Learner: “Cause my mother said I had to”

Teacher: “Why did your mother say you had to come to school?”

Learner: “Because she says I need a good education”

Teacher: “Why do you need an education?”

Learner: “Because I don’t want to have to work at MacDonald’s one day”

Teacher: “Why don’t you want to work at MacDonald’s one day”

Learner: “Because I want to earn a good salary”

Teacher: “Why do you want to earn a good salary?”

Learner: “Because I like buying nice things”

By using this method, it was easy for the learner to get down to what really matters to her – financial security and comfort. In so doing it became easier for her to find the value in coming to school and therefore easier to learn.

It is for this reason that finding value and making meaning is what Grade 7 at Sun Valley is all about. It is only once meaning and connection are found and value is established that true learning happens.

One of my favourite quotes is Joi Ito from the Media Lab at MIT where he says, “Education is what people do to you. Learning is what you do for yourself.” It is our desire not to do education, but to encourage learning by allowing our learners to ask questions and then to encourage them to question their questions.

  • Here are just a few of the questions we are going to encourage this year:
  • Who am I am and why am I special?
  • What motivates me to perform?
  • What engages my mind and why?
  • How do I stay engaged?
  • How can I add value?

I invite parents to partner with us this year as we set out to nurture young people who change their personal world and the world of others by engaging it through questioning, which leads to meaning and results in value which leads to deep learning.

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