It is currently 6 pm on 5 March 2017. It has been ~4 and 1/2 years since the world was “supposed” to end in 2012 according to the Mayan calendar. Obviously this did not happen, but children have still been fending for themselves as though it is the end of the world. As the rigor of academics is increasing and the competition for internships, graduate school, and other programs is on the rise, one must learn to put themselves above others. Although this trend is more prominent to those in higher education, it has started to work its way down the ladder into children in grade school.
A little bit of competition never hurt but it is a delicate balance and requires maintenance. Especially at very young ages, students should be focusing more on working together rather than competing with the child next to them over who can be the best leader in a group project.
Teachers should help foster and facilitate this need for collaboration. These children are the future of tomorrow and what they ultimately come up with will be what is to be implemented in theirs and our future.
There has been significant research conducted on collaborative learning, one of which was a study conducted on children in indigenous Mayan communities (yes, the world may not have ended but that does not mean everything about them is inaccurate). They found that children learn a great deal by observing and actively contributing to the activities of the community. This is much different than the typical European and American classroom setting where the teacher is the sole instructor and they control the classroom activities.
I believe the community can have a great deal of impact on collaborative learning. Here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we have a program called APPLES Service Learning. It aims to enhance educational experiences by connecting them to public service and working together to better the community. This is similar to the Mayans that it is not the typical transmit and test model that we are so accustomed to. Our primary source of information is given to us by our teachers which we are eventually tested on. The Mayans value listening to the ideas and explanations of others to collaboratively learn.
If we could implement a similar program to APPLES Service Learning to younger students, this could encourage students to work together more and engage with the community. We are often so stuck behind our scantrons and laptops that we forget why we are going to school to begin with. If we cannot and will not help our community right now, what will be our incentive to do so in the future.
I thoroughly pride UNC for making service learning one of the pillars of this university. It shows how much they value engaged learning and giving back to something that we are directly benefiting from. Expanding this to other communities and schools can open up numerous doors and insight for children that will benefit them both now and even more so in the future.