30 May 2011

This rock will turn into a tree

My son is about to turn 4 so needless to say I watch A LOT of Disney and Pixar movies. Now kids movies of today are so radically different than the movies of my youth. For one, there are almost always clearly defined learning objectives for the movie (Cars: treat everyone with respect; Monsters, Inc.: cheaters never prosper) instead of just the fluff that was produced in the 80s (Oliver and Company?). Second, they are made for adults as much as kids because the creators clearly want the parents to pass along the underlying message.

My point. We are watching A Bug's Life and there are two very important messages said right in the beginning of the movie. The in your face obvious one is delivered by the main character, Flick. He is speaking to Dot, a child ant, who is mocked by other ants because she is so small. Flick hands her a rock, tells her it's a seed, and explains how everything that makes their giant tree is already contained in this tiny, little seed. Dot looks at him and says "this rock will become a tree?" While some of the message was lost on Dot, clearly we must remember to reinforce in our kids that just because they feel small and insignificant now it doesn't mean that they won't be a huge, powerful force in the future.

But that was not the moral that inspired this post.  Flick is an inventor, a tinkerer.  Someone who looks at a problem and develops a innovative solution for it.  He is not smarter than any of his other bugs, but he doesn't let the status quo stop him from being.  At the beginning of the movie, all of the ants are picking seeds and fruits and walking in their typical ant line to a gigantic pile of food they are collecting for a group of grasshoppers.  Suddenly, a stalk comes flying out of the air and lands right on the princess.  Flick was using a device that cut down a stalk, plucked all of the seeds on it at once, then flung the stalk away.  Clearly, a must more efficient method than picking 1 seed at a time and walking that 1 seed to the pile.  When Flick runs over to help, one of the older supervisor ants yells at him and exclaims "Why can't you do it like everyone else?!"

Ants are known for their conformity and here is someone who is bucking the system.  Yes, he makes mistakes along the way and almost wipes out the colony, but in the end he is a hero.  His ideas help scare away the grasshoppers and saves the colony.  The best part is all of the harvesters are using his devices, doing less work and producing more food in the end.

I have had a lot of people tell me "Why can't you do it like everyone else?"  The answer is I am not built that way and neither are most of my students.  The problem is we continue to try and put kids into the pre-designed holes that we have created for them.  It's ok if they don't fit because we will either chip away at them until they do or we will cast them aside and let someone else try to make them work.  Let your kids be a Flick.  Let them have great ideas and do whatever you can to make them a reality.