Thursday, September 08, 2005

New opportunities in rising gas prices?

The ripple effect of rising gas prices is just beginning to be recognized. One that a friend mentioned was how the increased gas cost was going to impact already struggling school systems. As he said, "If you've budgeted for the 2005-2006 school year a certain amount towards gas for the buses, what happens when gas goes up fifty, seventy-five cents or even a dollar more per gallon? Considering that most school systems are running on wire thin budgets, where will this extra money come from?

It made me think--perhaps this is a good time to ask the question a different way. Instead of trying to find extra money to channel into the gas pump--maybe there's another opportunity here. What if we didn't bus our kids to school 5 days a week? What if they went only 3 days a week and the other two days incorporated neighborhood 'block' schooling. This would require parents and the community to be intricately involved with their children. And while I know this would take some logistics and coordination, it isn't impossible to do. Keep the 'block' small enough to build the community. That means not hundreds of kids, but maybe 20 maximum. The parents would work as a team to ensure leadership for those two days each week. Then build a 'school' group that has multiple ages in it (which we know is very beneficial to younger and older children!). Together, these children will co-support each other in creating a learning environment.

It would offer an opportunity to expand "education" beyond the traditional academic/book learning and enable other necessary components of learning to finally be addressed. For example, we know children need to exercise more and also need more hands on learning. So on these two days, children could be much more physically active--perhaps learning yoga, learning ballroom dancing as a group learning etc. As for hands on learning, field trips, starting local container gardening (science!) or perhaps there is a local business that the kids could 'work at' for one afternoon a week--learning what it really takes to run a business. This could include learning book keeping, practicing customer service, discovering how to place orders to vendors etc. Real life learning teaches a lot! If one of the adults knows how to play guitar or piano, music lessons could be offered. In other words, tap into the energy of the community and the talents that are available in it. (How did Ray Charles learn to play piano? It wasn't in school--it was by watching a neighbor!)

This is just one area where rising gas prices can give us an opportunity to transform old systems. Where once we were able to be 'car' dependent and created our lives in our cars on the way to somewhere--perhaps it is time to create our lives in our neighborhoods on the way to NOW.

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