Wednesday, May 08, 2002

An Enriching Experience

For three years now I've been involved in an enrichment cluster program at our local elementary school. An enrichment cluster is a group of students and adults who have gathered together to study some aspect of a "real" problem or to learn about something members of the community actually do. The adults in the clusters act as facilitators, not teachers, and ideally the members of the cluster will plan their activities together. One of the goals for enrichment clusters (and there are many goals) is to provide a more natural learning experience. To some extent everyone in the work world learns what they need to learn. (For adults reading this, think back to your first two or three years at a job. I think you'll see what I mean.) Enrichment clusters try to reproduce that natural method of learning.

You often hear the term high-end learning in relation to enrichment clusters. Unfortunately, I find most of the writing on that topic almost impossible to comprehend. (Perhaps I have a high-end learning deficiency?) But, basically, what we're trying to do with enrichment clusters is get away from the traditional teaching model of adult spitting out information and kids understanding and memorizing it and move on to more sophisticated stuff. In enrichment clusters kids get opportunties to plan, analyze, make decisions, organize time, and try out many of the other skills actually used in the real world.

So far I've facilitated clusters on using journals twice, and this year I'm the facilitator for a writers' group for 4th through 6th graders. At our school the clusters are held one hour a week for six weeks. It's an opportunity for adults to do sophisticated--but short-term--volunteer work.

Visit a real school's description of its cluster program.


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