Saturday, April 25, 2009

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

We just returned from a week in Arches and Canyonlands. The weather wasn't as we'd hoped--spring is a few weeks late arriving in the desert this year. We experienced some wacky weather. Warm the first day, then cold with fierce wind each night that blew all the dust from the desert into our cabin. The pages of our books are still gritty!

By far the strangest weather was the day it rained mud. No kidding. There had been a huge dust storm earlier in the day. The air was red with the dust hanging in it. When it rained later in the day, there was so much dirt in the air that the rain caught it on the way down and we had mud splatting on our jackets.

We drove through both the parks and saw most of the famous arches via viewpoints and some short hikes. The highlight for me was a ranger-led hike in an area of Arches called The Fiery Furnace. You can only hike there by permit or with a ranger. And we found out why. This hike gives you a true taste of the canyons. We inched through small cracks between the rocks, crawled thru other small spots like Crawl Through Arch, teetered on ledges (with a firm hand on Oliver), and scrambled over boulders.
The kids had fun participating in the parks' Junior Ranger programs. By doing a variety of activities in each park, they earned a Jr. Ranger badge for each park.

It's funny--the kids really enjoyed the parks and marveled at the sights. But, like the child who is happiest with the boxes at Christmas, Levi and Oliver had the most fun at a massive sandhill just outside the entrance of Arches. It's just a pullout on the side of the road. The hill is TALL and STEEP. Perfect for running up, rolling down, and finding sand balls to throw at your brother and friends. One day they spent 3 hours playing there while I sat in the car knitting and listening to music (after my own trip to the top!). The sandhill is their great memory from our trip!

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Obama's challenge to Arne Duncan, our Education Secretary was this: “We cannot continue on like this,” Obama said. “It is morally unacceptable for our children – and economically untenable for America. We need a new vision for a 21st century education system . . .” ( It’s hard for me to believe Duncan's recent suggestion that schools to be “open six days a week, at least 11 months a year, to improve student performance” (Boulder Daily Camera, April 8, 2009) could be any part of forward-looking educational reform. The number of hours our children spend in school has nothing to do with the education problems in this country. Have we learned nothing from No Child Left Behind? It is not cramming more facts into our children’s heads that will lead us to success. It is not forcing them to take more tests or spend more hours sitting still and listening that will help them get ahead.

The problem with our educational system is far more fundamental than that. Our education system is based on 19th century thinking, not 21st century. We are no longer training the masses for work during the Industrial Revolution. We cannot hope to prepare ourselves or our children for the future if we cling to this outdated mode of thinking. Reform is not what we need. We need, as Obama said, a totally new vision.

Listen to what Sir Ken Robinson has to say about education and creativity: