Schools have a lot to learn from ants

I recently watched Deborah Gordon’s talk on ant colonies, and I’m fascinated by the number of connections between the ants she researches and what I see as a successful school:

1. There’s nobody in charge. None of the ants are in control over what happens…it’s about each ant working as part of a team

2.  None of the colonies operate the same

3. Ants have an intense network that is constantly shifting

4. Each environment challenges an ant differently

5. Each ant is unique

6. Some ants need more stimulus to spark into action

7. Sometimes there are rewards in restraining, and holding back

One central thread that I saw Gordon weave through her talk was her emphasis on interaction and connection. Relationships are key to successful schools and successful education. I love the concept of ants as a colony working together to achieve a goal. Their exploitation of resources and constant adaptations make them seem more intelligent than we give them credit. With constant response to changes around them, they are more equipped than we are to handle change, stress, and disaster. What if we focused more heavily on the interactions and the relationships rather than the content of each subject area? What if we adapted our approach more freely based on resources, environments, and the needs of our students? What if we spent more time studying the network and connections between each of the members of our team, and built out ways to maximize learning? What if we embraced the messiness and owned the fact that our “colony” is not the same as another?

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