There is a spider that lives in the Swiss alps, the elastichspinne, that makes its web in pretty windy places. Some elastichspinne’s have been recorded as making more than a hundred webs, each of which is blown away by the wind before they even catch a single fly. Whilst spiders are not themselves great learners, this spider illustrates one of the key features that all great learners have; grit or the ability to stick at something. Here at the Extraordinary Learning Foundation™, we see grit as one of the four learning limbs that we must ensure that our young learners sprout.
The head represents curiosity because the eyes are always looking and the ears are always listening. The legs represent grit because they are the stable base that supports learning. The arms represent adaptability because arms are capable of being put to many different uses. The torso represent creativity because that it what is left.
Many of the schools that work with us here at the Extraordinary Learning Foundation™ use this model in every lesson in order to raise children’s meta-cognitive consciousness so that they can deploy these learning limbs deliberately and consciously. There has been much research into this area and such meta-cognitive strategies have been shown to be highly effective.
I’m sitting at the back of Dana Rece’s Grade 9 class at the Central International School in Utaga. Dana is resplendant and glowing in a purple shawl. The buzz of excitement in the room is adiabatic. The children sit at their study pods, discussing the science investigation that they have just been working on.
“OK class,” Dana Rece states, making a gesture that signals that it’s time to listen-up. “Discuss which learning limbs you have been using today with your study buddies.”
Dana Rece waits for a few moments in order to give her students plenty of time to Talk-it-out™.
“OK,” Dana gestures again, “Katia; what did your group think?”
Katia, a vital girl with glowing red hair and intense eyes answers, “We think we were using some grit. It got pretty tough going when all the paper towels kept splitting.”
“Uh-huh,” Acknowledges Dana Rece, “And what limb is that?”
“Yeah, that’s the back legs,” replies Katia.
“And why the back legs?” Dana continues to probe.
Katia is quick with her response, “Because they are the stable base that supports learning.”
“Good.” Affirms Dana Rece, “Anyone else come up with any other Learning Limbs™?”
A compact young man with a broad smile indicates that he wishes to speak.
“Go on, John,” Katia encourages.
“Well,” Says John, “I think we used some creativity in designing the inquiry process together – when we sketched it out on the big sheet.”
“Excellent,” Dana Rece nods her head, “And what limb is that?”
“That’s the torso,” Says John, before he continues, “And it is the torso because that’s what’s left.”
A broad smile breaks across Dana Rece’s face. “Great work today class! Good job!”