Learning To Engage

Written by Maren Schmidt

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Knowing and not doing, is really not to know at all.  To truly know and experience something, we must engage.  We can watch all the football games in the world, but until we learn to throw an accurate pass, run past a halfback, or have been tackled, we really don’t know football, we only know about football.

If we really want to learn something, we have to engage with our environment—the world around us.  Our environments consist of people, objects, tools, ideas and nature.

What is it that our children need to learn? 

The simple answer is our children need to learn who they are and who they can be.  To live life to the best of their abilities, engagement is essential.

Engagement requires time, deep time.

Time to explore.  Time to make deep connections and interconnections.  Time to cloud watch.  Time to dream.  Time to make dreams come true.  Time to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  Mistakes are at the cutting edge of learning.  We should be friendly towards errors—our children’s and our own. Engagement means that a decision to act has occurred.

My high school years were spent in Heidelberg, Germany and I walked back and forth from school through the castle gardens. 

Overlooking the Old Town is a bench with a plaque that commemorates the fact that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe liked to sit and think at this spot.  Goethe is credited with writing this piece that speaks of the importance of engagement.

Lose this day loitering –twill be the same story

Tomorrow—and the next more dilatory.

Each indecision brings its own delays,

And days are lost lamenting over lost days.

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute—

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Only engage, and then the mind grows heated—

Begin it, and the work will be completed.

With these words, Goethe would tell us that learning to engage seems to be the antidote to regret.  “Begin it, and the work will be completed.”

We loiter in our lives because we feel we don’t have the time, the money, the right tools, the right people, the right space to fulfill our dreams. Engagement–deciding to act–brings to itself the power to connect us to all that is necessary to fulfill our dreams.  “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Engagement for young children begins when we have prepared a place where they can decide to interact with objects, tools, people, ideas and nature to have vital experiences in a space of deep time–hours, days, months, and years.

A place where there is uninterrupted time.  A place where there are people who can provide guidance to the learning experience.  A place where there are objects and tools that engage the hand and the mind and offer connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.  A place where nature is experienced as engagement with life.

Helping our children learn to engage in a prepared environment of meaningful activities is a huge help to life as our children learn who they are and who they can be.


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Tags: what should children learn