The same can be said for time spent in the classroom. In the Apollo program (theapolloschool.weebly.com), students spend weeks on a project, chipping away at research, sketching, filming, editing, then more researching, and eventually submitting a final product for review. At times it’s treacherous and tedious, other times exciting and rewarding. It’s not uncommon to watch a student sit and think, take a walk, and return to sit and think some more. They don’t have a product to show for their planning, their introspection and inevitable dilemmas. Instead, they have something else, a process.
We stress process in our project-based environment. There’s a beginning to it all, then a “scratch that,” followed by a new beginning. A project about Western influence on Japanese fashion could morph into an intricate study of Pearl Harbor and the American response. Throw in some primary sources (photos of the Hiroshima aftermath) and some advice from a teacher, and haiku poetry emerges. “But wait, I thought the project was about Japanese fashion?” It was, and still could be, but now the process of the project, the process of student learning, has begun to take different shapes with a wealth of perspectives and experiences along the way. In a different setting, a student would be encouraged to stay focused on the task at hand—not to veer too far from the original idea or else… But limiting ideas limits learning. Conversely, allowing students to veer, to restart, to explore, can shift the overall purpose to the process itself, which can be significantly rewarding.
What I’ve found about teaching (and beaching) is that when we focus on the process—the learning experience from start to end—the end itself matters but the journey is just as memorable.