What a Squirrel in City Hall Park Teaches Us about Learning

Shout out to the pigeons, too!

I recently asked my education students to conduct a Learning Walk. It goes like this: They have 45 minutes to walk around the neighborhood–downtown Manhattan in this case–and to take pictures of what learning looks like in public. Throughout the walk, they discuss the nature of learning and what new questions their observations raise about teaching. They then return to class, having uploaded their pictures to our class cloud folder, and we critique what we see.

One interesting picture was that of a man squatting down to observe a squirrel. It seemed innocuous at first. But the image surfaces all sorts of excellent pedagogical questions: Why does the man find the squirrel worth studying? How is he positioning himself to gather information? What can we assume about the man based on his dress and interest in the squirrel? Can we say the man is learning if there is no teacher present?

The point is that learning happens all around us all the time. The more we pay critical attention to it, the more expansive our own definitions of learning become–and our teaching grows accordingly.

Thanks to the group for the pic: Nicole, Cat, Brookelynne, and Vicky
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