Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dig: The Beautiful Zone of Possibility

I have been to so many classes over the years where the content is dumbed down to the point of ridiculousness.  I want my children to be balanced on the edge of uncertainty sometimes.  I feel that it is there, while they are precariously balanced, that the greatest opportunity for learning exists.  Too easy, and they feel the adult is being condescending, too difficult and they reach their frustration level.  But in the middle lies an area where their brain has to grasp for old understanding in order to make sense of the new understanding.

That beautiful zone of possibility is where my girls have been hanging out this week.  Listening in the lectures has been a joy.  I have been a silent observer to conversation that one would expect to find in a high school or even a college level class.  

Our conversation began where it left off the previous day.....with a discussion of sense making systems.  This experience has required them to move out of their typical frame of reference for decision making and ask the question “how do I make sense the best?”  The children may not understand or be familiar with the systems a social scientist, physicist or biologist would use, yet they are called upon to think in this way.  Geof related this experience to Destination Imagination in that a problem has been presented and working as a team, they must make sense of the information presented and develop an understanding.  
Past generations were called “smart” by how much information they carried in their memory.  Our children make up the first generation who is not judged by that criteria.  Information is accessible immediately to the masses through their iPad or laptop computer.  However, this is not an excuse for a lack of understanding.  Take the The First Sacred War fought between the the city of Kirrha and the Delphic Amphictyony, 
“In ancient Greece, Kirrha was a heavily fortified city which controlled access to Delphi from the Corinthian Gulf. Kirrha took advantage of its location to rob and mistreat pilgrims to the Delphic Oracle, to tax Delphi, and to steal land from Delphi, land considered sacred to Apollo. This behavior prompted many of the other Greek city-states to form the Amphictionic League, a military alliance dedicated to protecting Delphi, circa 600 BC. The League consulted the oracle for advice on dealing with Kirrha, and the reply was a call for total war. The members of the league vowed to completely destroy Kirrha and ravage the surrounding areas. To this they added a curse in the name of Apollo: that the soil should bring forth no crops, that the children of the women and livestock should be deformed, and that the entire ethnic group that inhabited the city should be eradicated.”
Each side would tell the tale of this war from a different point of view.  Was Kirrha justified in levying a tax against visitors to Dephi?  They would say yes.  Was Delphi justified in waging war for the defense of their property?  They would say yes.  As we look at historical events we need to understand that history and culture intersect geography.  Per Geoff, “History advances through culture and geography.  Culture develops through history.  What about geography?  Why is it the way it is?”
Geophysics help us to understand geography.  Greece would not be Greece but for the fingertips of Africa pushing through the Aegean Sea.  That led to the creation of a seaport in the Corinthian Gulf, which led to a city taxing visitors to the Oracle of Delphi, which angered the residents of Dephi, which ultimately led to war.  
The more you learn, the more you can make sense of the unfamiliar.  As the children headed out to the dig site, they were tasked with the challenge of making sense of the unfamiliar.

Working with the information of skeletal remains and a weapon, the children needed to explore level III to find more clues to put this puzzle together.  They found two urns, one with ashes, plates depicting Dionysus and Athena, a damaged marble floor situated between two boulders, and a hearth.  Hmm.......I have an idea what the story is based on the dialogue at the dig site, but I am hoping that the children will present this tomorrow and I can capture it on video.
For more information on the Big Dig, check out: The Archaeological Perspective

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