Saturday, November 12, 2011

The world is so full of a number of things

Today I spent a certain amount of time being a sidewalk superintendent. A crane was being assembled for the construction of Columbia's new sports facility on West 218 Street. What a treat to watch this behemoth being assembled like an out-sized Tinker Toy, or Knect construction. The crew assembling it were a real team - focused and synchronized.

I went out to visit the crane three or four times during the day. In the early evening I went out and watched the final assembly and stayed until the crane was up. Wow! There were some other adults hanging out and taking pictures including a professional from an engineering magazine. When the crane was on the way up many of the construction crew also took out their cell phones and took pictures.

I wasn't surprised to see some adults stopping to gawk. After all - so was I! What surprised me was how few children and teenagers bothered to look. In the evening there were two families with pre-school aged children and parents acting as explainers. But this is a neighborhood that is crowded with families! Where were all the kids? Is almost everyone too busy to look at something as extraordinary as this? Or perhaps we have grown so blase since we can watch on the computer or TV as things much bigger and more elaborate than these are built or blown up? Or is anything that isn't announced as an "event" just invisible?

I am puzzled. A lack of background knowledge, the information about and vocabulary describing the world, can be a major obstacle for our students. Where will they get this information if they aren't encouraged to go out and look?