Learning and Teaching

While memories of great summer camp experiences at Holmes were in my mind, I happened to listen to a Ted Radio Hour on Education.  One speaker, an educator from India described an experiment where a computer screen and mouse connected to the internet were placed on a street corner kiosk three feet off the ground.  He had an inkling about children learning as he designed the height.  For a week there was not activity on the computer.  Then letters began to appear (where there was no keyboard), then some games and then a word processor program. When the researcher interviewed the children using the computer, the responded, “This is a dumb computer.  We had to learn English in order to use this instrument.” Because they had heard of games and programs on the internet, they learned a new language, they learned how to use the computer character map and then were able to play computer games and write stories.  All without step by step directions!

How do we intrigue learners to grow in faith?
Summer campers join a community, meeting new friends, negotiating group activities and wondering about new surroundings (including the night skies).  Two of our summer camp faith educators have held an “Ask the pastor session each week”.   These are not question sessions about big topics like predestination but wonderings about real issues, “What can help me with a friend who is sad?”,  “Why did God make the sky blue?”,  “Can you tell me why Jesus called the little children to him that day?” Out of one child’s question twenty children found answers.

The question lingers in my mind.
Do we teach what we think those wondering about faith need to know or do we find the questions which will open the door to inquiry?  Is Bible Study an investigation or sharing facts?  We remember that Jesus was often teaching a new way to persons outside the traditional faith patterns of the day.  Who in your community (young or old) has a question which would lead to a deeper learning about faith?

Twenty years ago we relied on experts in a variety of fields to bring in new information on a subject which was challenging or intriguing.  Today we can find the answer on a smartphone (needing to judge the reliability from our ignorance).  Has our faith education adapted to this new access to information and learning style?

Memories of great faith learning experiences will support us, but providing a computer in a kiosk or materials to help form questions about faith will help those investigating wider spirituality to find our communities of faith.

The Rev. Peter Surgenor is the Executive Director at Holmes Presbyterian Center in Holmes, NY.

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