Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Big Apes

Nature's recent program on Snowflake the albino gorilla got me thinking about, you guessed it, school - and teenagers.  Yeah, I know, teens - apes ha, ha.  But actually, it made me think about my own unending need to be stimulated.
The caging of this snow white ape lead to big differences in how all our captive animals are treated.  
Anyone as old as I am can remember what sad places the zoos used to be.  Barren cages generally held slow moving, obviously bored, unhappy, and often unclean animals who stared at us as we stared back at them.  
The adoring throngs of this unusual gorilla could see the animal's obvious intelligence and that eventually led zoologists to spend millions constructing enclosures that mimicked a more natural habitat.  And, to supply the animal's need for variety and intellectual stimulation, feeding more resembled the animal's daily foraging activity and natural diet.  Instead of plopping all the food down at one prescribed time, food was varied and hidden so the animals had to look for it, feeding not only their bellies but their need to problem-solve and encounter both frustration and delight.
I like those things too, big ape that I am.  My mind gets restless when all the problems are solved and I've fallen into routine.  That can easily slip into a low level depression which I kick out of by taking on some new challenge.
Teens sometime stare dumbly back at us, suffer depression, look for stimulation in the wrong places (speed, alcohol, drugs, etc.).   Hmmm..... maybe school needs to more resemble their natural habitat.
Choice is one of the ways kids can get re-engaged in intellectual problem-solving - so is inquiry based learning.  Bubble sheets?  Not so much.