“Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!” Recycled News about Class Sizes

Yesterday, at a VHS closeout sale at a local video store, we scored the entire collection of Magic School Bus videos for just a few dollars. While at home watching the episode on sound, it occurred to me why it is that Ms. Frizzle is able to encourage her students to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” And then they actually do it.
There are only EIGHT students in Ms. Frizzle’s class!!!

Cut to this morning.
I am part of a network of educators who receive news briefs and such regarding education. In my inbox this morning, was this:

Studies: Smaller classes help keep students focused, engaged

Students behave differently in smaller classes, staying on task with greater frequency and interacting more with their teachers, according to an analysis of research gathered from various countries, including the U.S. "Small classes are more engaging places for students because they're able to have a more personal connection with teachers, simply by virtue of the fact that there are fewer kids in the classroom competing for that teacher's attention," says Adam Gamoran of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who examined the data.

Is this news?

In the mid nineties when I was teaching at an urban school in Los Angeles, my class size went from an average of 33 down to a startlingly amazing 17 when California passed its 20:1 law for the primary grades. While teaching overseas, I had anywhere from 8 to 20 students at any given time, and yes, not surprisingly, the classes in which the kids were REALLY thinking, could pursue their interests, and get excited about learning were the ones in which the class sizes were small. I’m sure that little fact is not news to anyone.

So what to do?

Herein lies the beginning of a series of hopefully weekly posts about working with the school environment to help nurture creativity! Please ponder the issue with me, and ask any questions you might have so I might be as specific as possible.
And in the meantime, bless the poor souls that must sit in a classroom with 30 other children vying for attention.