Sunday, August 11, 2013

Letting students loose

There's so much we want to share with our students. So much they have to learn and be exposed to. Such a long pathway to critical thinking in whichever academic discipline. This week I'm engaging with the wonderful students at the Boston Architectural College, masters students who are here in Boston to study sustainability. Sustainable things are things that stick around and as American cities go Boston is a great example. It's old, it's layered, it's been through so much, and I'm proud to say that from Boston we export all kinds of important things: ideas, entrepreneurship, and design.

How to get all of this across to students from all over the country, all over the world who are tired and challenged, here to learn, but burdened with a lot of work?

With my students at Boston University and also with my students at the Boston Architectural College, I've found that in some situations, the less you say, the better. People were just in lectures for more than three hours this morning. Now they're coming on the T to Lechmere station where we will meet to introduce them to the wonderful urban project of Northpoint.

I want them to see all they can. I want them to sense these surroundings and try to make meaning of them. I want my students imaginations to be sparked, and I want them to derive inspiration from a site that really is inspirational. Personally I've got most of the answers. But that's not what it's about. 

I need people to notice the little things and the big things, the pathways and the vistas, the water plants and terrestrial plants, and the huge transportation system that surrounds this enclave. I'll have to point some things out. But I want students to notice things on their own. Some of the students will talk among themselves, some will dawdle, and some will throw me questions that may not be relevant. My role as a guide to this spot is to point, sometimes silently, and let them take apart this environment for their own understanding.

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