I want to tell you a secret. When we look at which photos of our program to select for PR purposes, I always comb through for the most visible examples of what we secretly and jokingly call “learny” things: kids reading books, or playing chess, perhaps doing a math problem as they play “school.” When I see these things happening at Pathfinder, I eagerly pull out my camera to capture these moments, because most of the time in our program, to most observers, it doesn’t look like these children are learning anything at all. That skepticism is eased, it seems, by pictures of “learny” things.
We get asked a lot about literacy and numeracy. -”how do kids learn?” Kids play with letters and numbers, reading and writing, because it is important to them.
When they have a good reason *why they need* to use these tools, they learn very quickly. And we're here with them as 'village elders' every step of the way.
So many programs I have worked for have dealt with the issue of risky play by systematically eliminating risks. When I think about modern American parenting, safety culture, and the way anything fun seems to turn to lawsuit city, I become afraid to let the kids take chances. But the more I see kids learning to self-regulate their fear and aggression at Pathfinder, the more I come to the conclusion that it is the most important thing they could possibly be doing with their time here.
I want to make the point clear: Uli was exactly the kind of kid that parents are most afraid of: one who is completely obsessed with computers, who spent 12 hours a day hooked to his screen, playing video games. For years.
And the result of letting him follow this obsession is that he is now a highly skilled software developer, and capable of doing things with computers that most people get paid for. And he’s only 14 years old.
When we take off time for a holiday break, the response is, "No! We don't want days off! We want to stay at Pathfinder!"
In any place that resembles "school," that is a rare thing indeed.