For some reason, today I found myself using the word “beautiful” more often than most. I watched a truly “beautiful” sunrise this morning featuring streams of orange light peeking through puffy gray clouds. My daughter, who happens to be in Santiago, Chile at the moment, texted a “beautiful” picture of the city from an overlook, mountains dominating the backdrop. And as I was going through some long packed away treasures in the basement just now, I came across a really “beautiful,” small, still life watercolor that my amazingly talented step mother painted for me probably 20 years ago or so.
We use that word to describe things that we find inspiring or awe-some in some way. Something that makes us want to stop an linger. Something that we hope to experience again.
Which for some reason led me to wonder, why don’t we use that word very often about learning? I mean certainly, there is such a thing as “beautiful learning,” a moment in our own lives or that we observe in others that inspires, that we hope to experience again.
We all can point to experiencing learning in a “beautiful” way, right?
So why do I hear that so rarely (if ever) hear that in a classroom context?
I think the answer is pretty clear, if we’re honest. Most learning that happens in schools isn’t beautiful. It’s mundane. It’s happened before. It’s not something that makes the learner want to learn more.
I mean, take this kid who wants to plant a trillion (with a “t”) trees around the world. Going from one to one million to one trillion trees just has beautiful learning written all over it. It’s unique. It’s inspiring. It’s project-based learning and problem solving and passion all rolled into one meaningful attempt to change the world.
There is art in learning, not just an art of learning. We should aspire to both.
What if we saw kids as artists, and saw their learning as much as a product as the art they create? We’d find beauty in their persistence, creativity, curiosity and more, not just in the trees they might end up planting.