A lot less teaching, a lot more learning

“Many professors here teach by the hour.”  A University Professor told me that when I was teaching for a semester in a Russian-speaking area of Eastern Ukraine.  In the five years since then, many of the places I have visited, such as the enchanting Crimea, have been re-taken by the Russians.  What has not changed is the autocratic Russian teaching style.

At Mcartoonleaarningeadowcreek, we believe the best way to learn something is by experiencing it. Everyone agrees with this idea when we are talking about riding bikes or swimming.  Nobody sensible believes you can learn either from a book or through an online course.  You have to get on that bike in order to learn how to ride it.

We believe that is true of all learning.  If you come to Meadowcreek, you will be immersed in the experience of organic farming, mushroom production, making biochar, home construction, stone masonry, and dozens of other practical skills.

You will be out in the field or forest working on a garden bed or a biochar pile and you will learn chemistry and ecology.  You won’t spend years getting a horticulture degree before you learn how to use a hoe.  You’ll be out in the organic garden the first day and every day from then on.

At the biochar pile, you’ll learn how the linking of carbon atoms creates a unique substrate to trap nutrients and provide a home for microorganisms to build the soil. Then when you study carbon and the periodic table from books, it will make sense to you.

The Russian, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, created that periodic table and is among many extremely accomplished Russian scientists and mathematicians.  Russians revere scientists the way some Americans revere movie stars.

This means when you lecture in a Russian-influenced classroom, the students usually stand when you enter.  They ask for your autograph (or at least they asked for mine).  They listen and never ask questions unless you permit it.  Russian students respect their teachers.

Some teachers abuse this respect and care not whether their students learn.  Their job is to teach the material, the students job is to learn it.  As the adjacent cartoon has it, just because you taught a dog to whistle doesn’t mean he learned it.

Many US teachers are dedicated and hard-working.  As the school year starts in a few days, they are determined to do their best to help their students learn to read and write and use numbers.

The trouble is that most are confined by a system which limits them to teaching from books in a classroom to children sitting at desks.  Much can be learned from books in a classroom, but the most valuable knowledge comes from interacting with the real world the books only symbolize.

The basic distinction between formal learning and tacit learning is seldom presented. Formal learning is learning from books and symbols, tacit learning is from experience with real phenomena.

At Meadowcreek, we are convinced that the most effective learning is tacit or experiential learning.  Until you have experience with the real phenomenon, you can’t appreciate the symbols used to represent it.

We have a memorial to the failed method of learning, lecturing by experts, at Meadowcreek.  It is an abandoned lecture hall far up one hillside.  The lecture hall was built so that everyone in the entire building would hear the lecturer when he was speaking.  Only the cafeteria workers in the basement didn’t have to listen when the lecturer pontificated.

This building illustrates the mistaken belief that experts imparting verbal knowledge is the way learning should occur.  We love experts at Meadowcreek–anyone who is skilled at their craft is welcomed and recruited.

The root of “expert” is experience.  Our experts, in organic gardening, mushrooms, biochar, horse whispering, help you gain the experience they have.  That’s the only way to learn.

Schools used to be places where students and teachers gathered to learn together.   Witness the methods Socrates, Plato and Aristotle used.  Since then, administrators have turned schools into structures which enable them to get paid whether students learn or not.  Many Universities today are most adept at extracting money from students and taxpayers.  Online learning is often the perfection of this system.  No teacher with any experience is a topic is needed for online learning.  It’s the exact opposite of Meadowcreek’s methods.

We do try to reach people through the internet and books, but only in the hope that some will be inspired to come to Meadowcreek or other experiential learning centers.

We have been helping people establish farms and careers in sustainable and resilient agriculture for a generation.  You could be part of our next generation.


Contact us at meadow@deltanetwork.org if you want to be a part of the Meadowcreek experience.  Don’t head off to some lecture hall this fall, come and learn the experiential way at Meadowcreek.