Volume 8 Number 1 - Winter 2000
The Kindergarten Model of Education
by Gary McCallister
After attending the Mindfest
Conference at MIT at the end of October I returned home
with much to think about. I was unusually stimulated and
thoughtful following the meeting. Perhaps it was just hybrid
vigor after a weekend of immersion in engineering,
education, robotics, and programming, but I found myself
thinking about the implications of the things learned there
and my own practices as a biology professor. I came up the
following "Kindergarten Model of Education."
The best way of implementing this model, I believe, is by
imagining a one-year-old crawling around on the floor with
parents or siblings, or a kindergarten class busy at "work."
Then try to extrapolate what that might look like for
ten-year-olds, high school seniors, or college students.
1. We live in a world of objects
- Some of those objects have a great effect on living
- We need to learn how to deal with those objects.
- The best way to learn how to deal with objects is to
play with them.
2. Many of the objects in the world are alive. (We live
in a living world.)
- Some of those living things have an effect on objects
and on other living things.
- We need to learn how to deal with living things.
- The best way to learn about living things is to play
3. Many of the living things in the world are people.
- People have ideas that influence how we deal with
objects and living things.
- We need to learn how to deal with people.
- The be way to learn how to deal with people is to
play with them.
4. We live in a world of ideas.
- Many of the powerful ideas in the world involve what
we think about objects and living things.
- Ideas have consequences. For example, many ideas have
to do with living together with both objects and other
living things: freedom, rights, duties, love, law,
ecology, symbiosis, gravity, magnetism.
- The best way to learn about those ideas is to play
5. We deal with objects, living things, people, and ideas
through processes (procedures, skills).
- By understanding and controlling process we can
better control objects, life, and ideas.
- We need to learn the appropriate processes for
dealing with objects, life and ideas.
- The best way to learn to control a process is to play
If one adopts the above purposes of education, it would follow that
our classrooms should be rich in objects, living things, and people
who are playing together, many powerful ideas, and the opportunity to
learn new processes specific to each field. Students need many opportunities
to PLAY with all of these, just as a baby needs opportunities to manipulate,
throw, touch, put things in their mouth and generally fool around with
the world. I believe that with sufficient opportunities to play there
would be very little need for, or importance in, memorizing facts, trivial
ideals, and multiple choice exams. If there is enough play we will remember
and gain wisdom and knowledge.
Gary McCallister is Professor of Biology at Mesa State College
in Grand Junction, Colorado. He has been instrumental in bringing the
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He may be contacted at: email@example.com