Before she began the lesson, Kerry Ferguson reminded her kindergarteners not to bother each other, not to interrupt — and not to raise their hands before speaking. Some timid, some eager, the tiny students offered up their ideas about a story in which the mouse saves a lion by chewing through a net.
“Why was the little mouse so scared, terrified and afraid of the lion when they first met?” Ferguson asked them.
“The little mouse was too little and the lion was big,” one girl said.
“Because mice are afraid of cats,” another girl added. “Like house cats will chase a mouse.”
It might seem strange to ask squirming kids to avoid raising their hands. But it is crucial to what Muir is trying to do. On the other end of campus, Chet Hancock actually nudged one raised hand aside. His class of middle and high schoolers was poring over a dense text by Ralph Waldo Emerson about manual labor laden with words like “antagonism” and sharing ideas.
Muir has changed the way it looks at learning. It pulled teachers out of the limelight. It let kids drive the discussions. And it focused on individualized projects that pull from different subjects, such as having students study their personal heroes and making websites about them.