Experience Needed for Full Understanding

Yesterday my husband and I drove on a “blue highway” through the Salinas Valley as part of our vacation road trip. Previously, we’d just zipped up and down the 101 freeway among other motorists bent on getting somewhere else, no there.

This time, however, we journeyed virtually alone to Mission San Antonio de Padua, 26 miles off the freeway, through some of the most pristine, iconic California landscape I have ever experienced.

For the first time, I really understood Jody Tiflin’s point of view in John Steinbeck’s 1933 novella The Red Pony. The young protagonist always marvelled at his grandfather’s tales of traveling the Oregon Trail, through the flat farmland of young Jody’s home, through the sage-covered foothills, then over the coastal range to the turbulent ocean along the rocky Monterey coast. Even from our fast-moving car, I saw how far away the mountains seemed and could imagine how Jody was impressed by his Grandfather’s apparently daunting trek.

This tiny epiphany reminded me how much I need to give my students EXPERIENCES as much as possible, rather than just focusing on the words on a page. This is true especially for my English learners, who never received the California history curriculum in the 4th grade. This year we will definitely do some exploring via Google Earth.

But maybe we’ll just take some walks up a hillside, too.

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