When our youngest son was four, he loved the act of throwing rocks into the water, by carefully selecting a stone and watching the impact as it hit the water’s surface. He loved seeing the ripples, watching them circle the rock’s point of entry and move outwards, creating small waves in the surrounding water. He could do this for hours.
Now, at age 10, he could still do this for hours- though the task has changed from simply throwing rocks to skipping rocks.
It’s evident to me why he has always loved this so much- the act of throwing a rock into the water. In the sacred space, he is in charge. He chooses the rock, how much force to use, and what direction to throw it. He chooses the pace, how many rocks he throws in a certain period of time, and when to take a break. In the comings and goings of life, the prescriptive nature of childhood, and a largely adult-imposed agenda, my son is captivated by this space that allows him freedom and choice. He has agency over his experience.
When I think of this sweet memory, it always reminds me that is truly what we all want, children and adults alike. We all want the opportunity to impact the world in some way- to see the ripples, the effects of our actions, no matter how big or small the splash. We all want the chance to stand back proudly and think, “I did that.”
This is the magic of self-directed learning- of a learning environment where young people learn by doing and effectively have the chance to see the ripples of their choices and actions.
As we settle into new routines and rhythms this school year, we do so with our mission at the forefront- a mission to give young people agency in their learning so that they can discover what they can uniquely contribute to the world around them.
Every step of the way, they’ll be discovering how powerful they are, as individuals, and as a community. They’ll be making messes, celebrating successes, and constructing deep and meaningful learning.
Again and again, they’ll be making their own ripples in the water and standing back to think, “I did that.”