NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. — Steve Delpome of North Arlington is taking a new approach in the classroom.
After teaching at various schools in Ridgewood, North Arlington and Oakland for over 15 years, he heard a revolutionary idea: what if kids taught themselves?
"There’s always this small but significant child population for whom school and school tactics don’t work," Delpome said.
It's not too good to be true. The concept was pioneered by Professor Sugata Mitra in 1999.
Mitra ran "hole in the wall" experiments in the slums of countries like India, where a computer was left for locals to interact with it. Driven by their curiosity, they learned to use the computer by themselves.
"[Kids] enjoy thinking about higher concepts," Delpome said.
"They don't do it in an academic way, they do it in a kid way."
The concept is called a Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE). Kids choose what they're curious about and use tools like internet search engines or Wikipedia to find the answer.
The internet's interconnectivity of information can lead kids down deep paths.
"One link leads to another, one idea leads to another," Delpome said.
He explained that one kid had the knowledge that the sun would expand eventually and wanted to know what would happen when that occurred.
The kid's interest brought them to a page about the effects of nuclear war, then about how cockroaches can survive nuclear blasts and on and on it went.
"When kids are curious, they're capable of learning on their own," Delpome said.
Currently, Delpome is a one-man operation trying to bring SOLE to Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties. He mainly shows off the method through free library courses.
Delpome said any parents interested in SOLE can contact him at SoleAtHome@gmail.com .