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Socrates in Preschool: What would Socrates say about Snapchat?

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Todd Nelson

(Read caption) Socrates, famed scholar and philosopher, may scoff at the way new technology effects change in the way we communicate, but he'd appreciate the kind of critical thinking being taught in Todd Nelson's school. Here, The building plans created for one of the Not a Box projects, Complete with circles and arrows and ready to assemble.

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Two engineers are at my door, their neatly rolled blueprint in hand and two rubber bands keeping it neat and tidy (“Todd! Don’t lose those rubber bands. We’re going to need them at the end.”) These are carefully laid plans for a rocket ship, part of their class “Not a Box” project. In other words, it’s not a box, it’s a rocket ship. They are here on business: getting their plans passed by their principal and then by Dan, the head of buildings and grounds. We are high-ranking officials. These two Very Big Deal appointments, the culmination of a long process of planning, drawing, describing, coloring, imagining, and constructing, will earn them the Seal of Approval. It is tantamount to Planning Board Approval and license to build, the dispensation for a lot of cardboard and duct tape work. The financing has already been arranged.     

More importantly, this is a test of another kind of flight.   

The engineers speak. “Todd, we’re building a rocket ship. Do you have time to talk with us?” That introduction alone is a major feat.    

Actually, the It’s Not a Box project is Not a Project! It’s a conversation. Yes, our 4-year-old engineers have a detailed, colorful and imaginative plan to be executed in three-dimensional glory. However, the launching pad of this rocket ship is the conversation that ensues around my office table. I will ask questions, seek clarification of various aspects of the drawing, and engage the engineers. It is a conversation that has required a great deal of negotiation already. It’s part of a day in the life of an unusual childhood.    

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