WILLSBORO — Retired professor Robert Arnold tries to apply his 60-plus years in the education field to offers insight into teaching and learning.
During his long career, Arnold taught social studies and science to grades three through 11 and also was an instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Potsdam and Jersey City State College.
At SUNY Plattsburgh, he was instrumental in developing an “open curriculum” and the block program for student teachers.
Now 85 and living in Willsboro, Arnold still advocates for education progress through his website, Letters to the Editor and his new book, “Remaking our Schools for the Twenty-First Century: A Blueprint for Change/Improvement in our Educational Systems.”
Among the key concepts of “Remaking our Schools” are the individual styles of learning, group dynamics in the educational process and the “whole village” approach, in which the community has to become involved in education.
“I was terrible as a middle-school history teacher,” Arnold confessed of his beginning experience as an educator.
But he immediately sought ways to remedy that.
Reflecting on his experiences growing up on a farm, he came to see that pupils learn best when they are engaged in doing, rather than just reading and listening.
“Make it as clear as you possibly can,” he advises. “I was amazed how little is known about this country and that there is a need to look at primary-source documents and environmental relationships.”
To promote these ideas, he had his seventh-grade students build a scale model of St. Lawrence County based on information they obtained concerning animal and plant life and historical aspects, such as the gristmills and sawmills of the pioneers.
“Synthesizing information was the most important thing. What we usually get are bits and pieces of information,” Arnold said.
“To me, the creative process is what’s missing. We have taken the conclusions and teach them to the kids, but there is no continuity.”