Transformative learning is nature-driven from birth, through childhood and into adulthood. Our innate genius seeks expression through meaningful interchanges, challenges and explorations, leading to creativity and invention. Transformative relationships nurture transformative learning by igniting the flames of intelligence and initiative in children. Sometimes when we are fully engaged in a project, nearby children clamor to join in.
Just try to exclude them while cultivating a garden, painting or even grocery shopping. As role models and mentors; actively, meaningfully and creatively engaged in living, we become human magnets for eager learners.
The painter E.A. Burbank, famous for his portraits of Native Americans, spoke of the children as “the happiest children in the world.” Noting Hopi children’s remarkable ability to sit still for extended periods for portraits, Eastman closely observed the adult/child relationships.The children matured among adults engaged in meaningful projects for the benefit of family and tribe. Lovingly and patiently, adults welcomed them to join in tasks. For example, a mother designing a clay pot would hand her interested child a lump of clay. By working beside his mentor, without adult corrections or judgments, the young apprentice self-perfected his skill.
What can be more enjoyable and natural than to inspire a child’s desire to engage in challenging, meaningful projects that align with individual proclivities? Unlike tiresome nagging, prodding, judging and evaluating, the transformative joy of modeling and encouraging energizes both adult and child.
Transformative learning activates the prefrontal lobes. Here, “the essence of our humanity” resides, according to world-renowned expert Dr. Donald Stuss, author of Principles of Frontal Lobe Function. Dr. Elkonnon Goldberg, who wrote The Executive Brain, credits this “most human” part of the brain with cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking and generating new ideas. Equally significant, Candace Pert noted the dense cluster of endorphin transmitters located in these lobes in her book, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d.
Together, transformative relationships and learning stimulate transformative potentials. Children naturally love to innovate, communicate and relate. Our attractive examples and invitations trigger the child’s natural drive to contribute value to the world. The depth and breadth of transformative learning renders obsolete schooling through skills, drills and testing. The transformation of homes and schools into environments enlivened by happy, dynamic, purposefully engaged adults and children is a tantalizing prospect. When learning comes alive, children thrive.
Vicki Johnston is the founder and director of Robert Muller School and The Center for Living Ethics, a cooperative community learning center for adults, families, and Pre-K through Middle School-aged children, located in Fairview, offering both full-time and part-time programs. For more info, visit CenterForLivingEthics.org.