SCCS Summer Learning Adventures Southern Cayuga Conversations - By Elaine Meyers
As I child, I remember sitting with my cousins and their teen boyfriends when there was a lull in the conversation. One of the young men looked at my cousin Betty and said, “Maybe we could ask your grandmother to join us. She always livens up the conversation.” When my 80 year old grandmother arrived she told funny stories, discussed what she had learned from listening to the radio, and described a new crochet pattern she had just mastered. As an adult, I realized that my grandmother never stopped learning, and she was always welcome in any group. I decided to ask Southern Cayuga students and families how they kept learning when school was not in session.
I began my conversation with Southern Cayuga Central School’s junior/high school principal, Luke Carnicelli. Luke arrived after taking his son to a hockey camp—a familiar summer learning opportunity. Luke and I began to talk about learning as a lifelong process, and how SCCSD prides itself on project-based learning for all students. “We provide students with all the books, technology, and the finest teachers. We want our students to know how to define their learning objectives, and successfully find the answers they need. The resources available for both research and self-instruction have never been as rich as they are for today’s lifelong learners—of all ages.”
From Luke’s office, I moved to interview students in the school’s greenhouse where they were waiting for the senior agriculture student to help them discover more about the plants that surrounded them. I began by asking how they found good stories. A sixth grade girl began, “Well, I guess you could say I am just like my grandmother. I still like reading paper books. There is nothing more frustrating than being at the point in a story where you are about to solve the mystery, and realizing that your battery just died on the tablet.” Immediately, three students agreed that the only disadvantage to technology was poor connectivity, chance of computer virus, and being distracted by other applications. Stories seem to flow barrier-free from books, but students frequently used tablets. Three students recommended going to the Hazard or Aurora library for books. A younger student added that she loved stories on the tablet because of the audio. “I really like to look at the words of the stories as I listen to someone read.”
My next question was how they preferred to learn something new. A young boy jumped up and announced, “What you need is just the idea and the things you need to accomplish the task. I really like to discover all by myself the best way to make something. You should see me in my grandfather’s wood shop. He has saws, sanders, all kinds of wood, nails, hammers, rulers, and lots of things he has already made. I just look at what he made and begin.”
“I don’t know. I really like to read about what I want to know first. I love reading about physics. I couldn’t begin to understand nuclear fission and fusion without reading. I need very advanced books, but the library lets me borrow any book I want.” “Well, I go to You Tube for my best cooking lessons. Have you ever seen ‘Pasta Grannies?’ It shows Italian women who still make pasta by hand. They are saving a cooking tradition. Last night we made Pi Fasacc—a stuffed ravioli from the Lombardy region of Italy.”
I ended our conversation by asking the students to tell me about their most fun learning or story experience this summer. Responses flew from the group. Learning more about baseball—reading and practicing with friends. Our family vacation to Sanibel Island—I have tons of sea shells. Reading “Junie B. Jones”. Playing outfield on the all-stars team and finding a staghorn fossil. Reading the “Wings of Fire” series by Sutherland. Learning how to ride a motorcycle-- dad is a great teacher. Learning to play the ukulele at the Hazard Library. Reading about soccer and going to soccer camp. Going to Science on the Porch at the Hazard Library. Reading lots of stories about fish, and then going fishing with my uncle. Learning how to facilitate a meeting, and then practicing with others in the training group.
The many examples and exuberance of the answers affirms that lifelong learning is a part of the culture of Southern Cayuga. I was intrigued with the mention of the grandmother who liked books, the grandfather with the great woodshop and the many parents, teachers and others that provided rich learning experiences. I am sure that like my elderly grandmother, these young people will always be invited to join a group when the conversation lulls. There is nothing more exciting than what you have just learned.
Elaine Meyers, of King Ferry, is a member of the boards of the King Ferry Food Pantry and ABC Cayuga, as well as Anne Frank Tree Project and Southern Cayuga Garden Club. She coordinates a literacy support program at Southern Cayuga Central School. Photo Credit: Twitter for August 15, 2018 at http://www.southerncayuga.org/