This is an interesting quote by E.L. Konigsburg, where it suggests learning should involve a “swelling” of the new knowledge gained, and engage the senses and human emotion, versus simply accumulating facts without taking time to seek meaning and understanding. Education should aim to make applicable connections with learners and with the world around those learners. However, from what I’ve observed in my work with schools, students navigating today’s K-12 education have little opportunity or permission to apply their senses and emotion; and I’m not sure how much time there is for the “swelling” of what is learned.
Students of today seem like they are picking apples instead of taking away “sticky” knowledge. In classroom after classroom I’ve observed and talked to students who have learned to put dense, heavy content circles into buckets—picking and collecting facts as they would apples one by one, without thought or intention (and to continue with the metaphor), without noticing color or bruises, putting those meaningless objects into the bucket without question, day after day, apple after apple. When I talk to students they often describe learning as routine and tedious versus surprising or interesting. I’ve talked to many teachers, who agree.
In my field of arts education, where through collaborative educational partnerships we engage the creative process all throughout learning, we approach teaching and learning differently. As an artist and educator, I work with other artists and educators who imagine and work to ensure what we are practicing in each respective classroom allows room for more depth and exploration—where if students need to pick apples, they will at least have opportunities to hold those apples in their hands and look at them—really look at them. Now imagine learning spaces where students might then examine that fruit from top to bottom, press on that apple’s skin, soft or firm, throw it into the air to see how fast it falls, or take a bite, sour or sweet.
“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.” –E.L. Konigsburg