Learning via Metaphor with The Private Eye Project

David Melody believes the central importance of the metaphor mind is largely being trampled by most of what goes on in schools. So he and his colleagues at The Private Eye Project are restoring metaphor to its rightful place in education by providing kids with loupes, the little magnifying lenses used by photographers and jewelers, so they can observe the world in new ways. The essential question involved in learning via metaphor is: What is it like?. Interestingly, this is exactly the same central question involved in the therapeutic technique called ‘clean language’, in which metaphor also plays a central role.

The Private Eye Project “promotes a very simple, hands-on way to teach and evoke metaphoric/analogic thinking,” says Melody, associate director of The Private Eye Project. “Founded over 20 years ago by Kerry Ruef, the program has spread to tens of thousands of teachers and the millions of students they represent. About the program Richard Lederer has said, ‘A visionary work. The Private Eye is a gift to all those who care about language.’ U.S. Poet Laureate Richard Haas says, ‘The Private Eye is a wonderful contribution to literacy, poetry and ecological awareness.’ But just as many scientists praise it.

Dan Carsen of public radio station WBHM did a segment on The Private Eye Project last November: “As one teacher put it, ‘cliché is stripped away,’ and a sense of wonder ensues as magnification seems to change everyday things into something else entirely. But that’s just the beginning. Regardless of subject, students are nudged to make comparisons, and then more comparisons, between what they’re seeing and things they’re already familiar with. This process is repeated, often 10 times, partly to forge mental connections, partly because it shows there’s no wrong answer, that it’s a creative process … Making mental connections between things makes actual neurological connections in the brain. And since we’re talking analogies, you might say the Private Eye program is trying to improve students’ ‘hardware’ through brain-building exercise so they better upload the ‘software of say, ninth-grade social studies. Or just about anything else they come across.” Read or listen to the full story here.

If you love learning and you love metaphor, The Private Eye Project is worth a good long look…