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Learning for a Purpose

by Chris Fletcher, Resident Teacher

5th grade me would not have enjoyed learning about curling. You know curling right? That sport that is only mentioned by those of us outside the curling community roughly a handful of times once every four years when the Olympics roll around? The one where they slide a heavy rock across the ice and yell while their teammates sweep in front of it, seemingly to no effect? It doesn’t quite get the media coverage the big air events get so don’t worry if you haven’t. My point being, I expected some resistance and grumbles when our team unveiled three successive days where curling featured prominently in the homework. While there were a few understandable moans, they were quickly dispelled when we informed our students that we would be taking them curling in one week. Suddenly they became invested learners, quizzing each other on rules and practicing their vocabulary during the day, telling their students to “hurry hard!” to their next class.

When the morning of the curling adventure arrived more than one student came up to me excitedly saying that they had watched some of the Curling World Cup on tv last night (I would love to say that we planned that timing but it was just a happy coincidence). When we got to the arena and started learning the basics, our studious curlers were able to answer questions that our trainers said most adults don’t know or understand. We had a wonderful experience learning the sport and applying the knowledge they had learned over the course of the last week. While it is an insight I’ve had before and will have again in the future, as an educator I am always pleasantly surprised at how invested and engaged students are in a topic when they know they will actually get to do something with that knowledge. Those real world experiences, even if it is something they may never do again, are the fuel that ignite and sustain a continued desire to learn. While wholly impractical to include a field trip for every lesson, it was a good reminder to me to be on the lookout for those opportunities when possible. I hold out hope that when 2022 rolls around, there will be a couple more curling fans tuning in.