Learning does not take place if teachers simply dictate their knowledge to students. Instead, something marvelous happens when teachers put students into direct contact with what they need to learn.
Fortunately for a goodly number of Guadalajara youngsters, that is exactly what natural science teacher Jesús “Chuy” Moreno has been doing during his cursos de verano (summer courses) for nearly three decades.
Last week I caught up with Moreno at a wide, flat clearing in the Primavera Forest, just south of Pinar de la Venta, located eight kilometers west of Guadalajara. There were over 70 kids sitting out there on a carpet of pine needles in small groups, intently concentrated on … the shadow of a stick, which had been pushed into the ground in a standing position.
“What are you doing?” I asked one of the children, Meli Ibarra.
“Chuy showed us how to make sundials,” she told me. “And now we’re in the middle of a competition to see who can make the most accurate sundial, which involves marking the position of the shadow very exactly.”
Sara Rodríguez Villegas then chimed in: “We’re also learning how to use our sundials to find north.”
“OK, but now tell me something you learned last week,” I asked her.