Have you ever noticed that kids teach a lot?
You could say they teach themselves – like experimenting with ideas, objects, and the capabilities of their own bodies. For example, asking and finding answers to questions like “Will my idea work?” “What does this object do?” or “Can I climb that high?”
They also teach each other – like when one kid discovers something and shows it to another or they learn a new skill and then pass it on. For example, I recently watched one child help another who was struggling to climb a tree. The first child demonstrated then described what they had done to the second child, “When I climbed the tree, I put my foot here, then here, then pushed up from this branch.” The second child used the first child's advice and was able to climb the tree.
But what about us? Do kids teach us adults? When I stop to think about it, I realise that kids actually teach me things all the time - like facts they've learned from school, tv programmes, or books. They teach me new skills, like how to make things or play games (where do you think I learned how to make loom band bracelets? Or even play pokemon? Yes.. that's right, I admit it... I've played pokemon.)
I think it's easy to get ourselves wrapped up in thinking about how much kids DON'T KNOW that we neglect to appreciate how much they DO KNOW. When you consider how little time they've actually spent on this earth, the knowledge and skills they've already acquired so far can be seen as quite admirable. I also think their ability to absorb knowledge and then share it with others so quickly can be really amazing. When that knowledge is shared with me and I realise I've learned something new from them, I really start to appreciate that kids are definitely teachers too.
For example, the other day at Forest School I noticed an 8 year old boy making wooden knives out of a hazel pole. He'd learned the skill on a bushcraft camping trip he'd taken with his dad last summer. I'd seen knives like this before, but hadn't actually made one myself. I wanted to learn and I asked if he would show me. He took me through the steps one by one and demonstrated exactly how to make the knife. He answered my questions patiently and even lent me his own pocket knife for a while to make my own.
I managed to document his knife making lesson and made a short video to share it with you...
This lesson hadn't been planned; it was completely impromptu. For whatever reason, he had decided he wanted to make some knives that day. I'd noticed and wanted to learn too. I think this demonstrates really well how Forest School fosters a learning community in which we all recognise that we can learn from each other - even when it's adults learning from children. When we level the hierarchy and encourage kids to share their knowledge in an environment with the time and space for them to do so, we can really see just how good kids are at being teachers too...