Fun with the Big6

With all of the business about skills, curriculum, growth, projects and things, talking about using the Big6 can seem to take on a rather serious tone. True, you can escape the control, expense and learning stagnancy of much of the standard curriculum by using the Big6, which is indeed real business. Additionally, you can rise to a whole different level of learning with it, which also ranks up there. But after all the discussion about the how's and what's, let us not forget the rest of the picture.

One could easily misunderstand this conversation has been about using only the Big6, and in a specific way. But as mentioned earlier, it can be used in different ways as desired. I Sometimes get caught up in the process of things, but part of the exploration in the Big6 is that it is flexible and can follow the flow of a project, so it is not a strict matter of "do this stage", then "do that step." Though a finished project will have complete stages, different parts of different stages may follow discovery as it occurs. And in the long run, the Big6 is really a tool that can help realistically make exploration a regular element of family learning. The excitement of it is that your kids can choose directions they want to go in. But the better part is that, instead of strictly being overlord of production any longer, part of your job is to be exploration guide.

Idea Exploration

While kids are working on projects, they are not going to just automatically know what to work on next. They may have a list of ideas to start with, but are going to benefit from exposure to new ideas. This is where you can help collect and arrange a variety of experiences to help them see new things and ask new questions.

The exploration could involve short and long term activities. Anything from simply finding short reading selections on a variety of new topics to arranging exploration trips to visit unusual places to meeting new people or trying a different sport or kind of food could work as ways to germinate new ideas in learners. The Online Resource Reviews on this website can hopefully provide a good base of simply applied opportunities for these purposes as well. All of these things could be given a regular or random part in learning.

Process Exploration

Our approach to how learning is done is the biggest limit to where it goes. Admittedly, we all have financial and geographic limitations, but if we maintain a narrow mental image of what the learning should involve, Big6 projects will probably look like a lot of standard school reports. On the other hand, there is a broad range of ways these things can go, if we are open to them.

Though they are from a school context and do not involve the Big6, Ron Berger gives a number of examples of learner-led projects in "An Ethic of Excellence". These include things like a project studying radon gas, which almost started to act like a government organization with kids handling information distribution, research, community outreach and more (16-7). The thing is, that with open horizons, it is hard to say where learners might take things when following the necessity of a topic.

This is not to suggest you have to or even should have your kids running public service projects, but to say that well-nurtured interest can go a long distance. And this can be initiated and driven through the project process. Looking to real-world sources for help with direction and information can put projects in a whole new league.

Apart from working with initial exploration as described above, you can also help with process exploration. What is meant here is, as a project is researched and grows, there is room for alternate paths it may take. Depending upon age, you may want your child to take more of a part in managing these. But there could be things you may want to help facilitate or mediate.

The parent could find plenty to do in conjunction with the learner's project design. This could involve contacting subject experts or community contacts, arranging research trips and interviews, making online contacts, and acquiring information sources. Again, the projects could take on a life of their own, leading many directions. But many of these activities could help to grow or redefine projects.

In the end, some projects could end up looking like book reports, for better or worse. But they don't have to. Learning using the Big6 opens up the door for real world, connected learning with endless paths of potential. While children are exploring and learning, parents will be doing so as well. Though we have a number of years on the kids, in the long run, we are going to find a lot more excitement and fulfillment joining them in this way than in trying to push the rope of curriculum, paperwork and subjects.

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