What’s missing from education in America? Seems like a rather broad question with innumerable answers. But perhaps all of them can be summed into one: what’s missing from classrooms is, in fact, all that lies outside classrooms. And students? Well we’ve been instructed and geared towards what’s in classrooms, not what’s outside of them.

If learning can occur any time, anywhere, why is it generally focused only in the classroom? Yes, yes homework is completed outside of school, yet homework is an extension of the classroom curriculum. Even extra credit can be traced back to the classroom, helping to boost a student’s grade.

One key ingredient I felt was missing from my education was encouragement to seek knowledge beyond the classroom on my own. I was a curious child, as many children are today, yet I was so preoccupied with completing my homework, even seeking help from my math teacher outside of class so I could complete assignments, that I never considered nor had the time to go off and explore my own educational interests. The thought was, ‘I’ve completed my assignments, my projects, I’m golden.’

Is it golden? It is one thing to complete class requirements, but seeking knowledge outside the class curriculum for one’s own pleasure is quite another.

English in high school was not my preferred subject; but perhaps if my teachers had presented the idea to me, ‘if you like Shakespeare and want to read more of his works…,’ perhaps I would have done just that and gone on to enjoy English. The thing is, as a student I didn’t know what I was missing, I didn’t know what else was out there, so I never attempted to look for it.

To ensure that children are finding passions in fields (such as STEM!) we should do three things. First, we need to make sure we give students the encouragement to follow their interests and learn outside the classroom. Second, we need to give them the time to do so. And lastly, we should give them resources if they do wish to explore additional material.

There is so much learning that can take place outside the classroom, let’s make sure we connect students to it.

Cover Photo: Doug Wheller via Flickr