The Way Children Learn at Ojalá Niños

The public school systems in Mexico do not emphasize how to learn. They do not offer the skills needed to explore, discover, think, imagine, form opinions – best of all, the ability to express oneself, which emanates from those skills. The result is children who are very good at copying, following directions, taking orders. From preschool to university, they begin every school day with marching – mindlessly marching. This results in a passive adult populace, with very little independent critical thinking.

It might be said that children from poor rural communities who cannot attend school have more open, receptive minds.

The programs of Ojala Niños A.C. offer another model. It is “A Place for Learning” providing space, materials, ideas and guidance. This environment stimulates the integral processes in human beings that lead to the desire for life-long learning.

The three ideas that form the composite of the learning person are:

CURIOSITY is the engine for learning in all beings. It is the force from the first days of life that leads to exploration, leading to discovery, leading to learning.

In our earliest days, curiosity requires guidance from older beings for safety. That guidance is called “teaching” in traditional education and usually implies a subtle level of authority over the learner. In the place-for-learning model learners are given the freedom to exercise curiosity.

SOCRATIC DIALOGUE is simply the arts of questioning and conversing.

The most learned amongst us engage in this process, but it is also a delightful exercise with young children! The human mind becomes immediately engaged when a question is asked. It’s like a light switch. “What do you think?” “What do you see?” “What did you hear?” All simple questions, but producing profound thoughts that resonate in the learner. Dialogue requires two voices, but can be expanded to include a group conversing about a question that has been posed. This is always a lively happening and inspires the desire for more such experiences.

THE CIRCLE has been the physical form of human interaction throughout human history.

Our ancient tribal ancestors did not sit in rows to talk with each other or to think about collective problem solving. They did not sit in rows to hear a lecture or view a performance. The circle was the symbol of their interdependence. We still sit ‘around’ a table to share meals, we sit ‘around’ tables for meetings. Some ancestral memories still play out for us.

When children or learners of any age sit in a circle, or move in a circle, each person is very alert because they are seeing everyone else and experiencing a collective energy. Minds are engaged and there is an eagerness to express opinions, feelings or thoughts that are forming. Its easy to listen to the opinions, feelings and thoughts of others – and participate!

Imagine ~ the free exercise of curiosity and Socratic dialogue produces people who think critically, question, listen, express themselves, giving their VOICE to their world. These are called educated people.

by Elsmarie Norby, founder of Ojala Niños ~ October, 2018