A room full of students is not the same as a room full of children. Typically when we consider a child as a student we have already narrowed our point of view. “Student” is a partial identity, occurring only in the context of classroom and education and leaving out many critical aspects of who the learner actually is.
In our more expansive view, however, a teacher gazes out on the rows of faces in a classroom and is immediately confronted with the fact that the children in front of her are highly active learning organisms. They are students of their world, passively and actively engaging in deliberate exploratory activities and acts of fancy and innate curiosity. These students take in learning and create meaning constantly, but their learning is not confined to the curriculum that the teacher presents. They are learning everywhere, all the time. Some of what they learn is healthy and some is not, but it is learning all the same, and it will influence who they are to become. They learn from and about one another, about what it is like to be in a school, about whatever interests them most, about boredom, about excitement, about what is happening outside the window, about power and control in social relationships, about as well as from the teacher, and on and on. Learning happens willy-nilly and constantly and is by no means limited to the curriculum.
From our vantage point, an expanded view of what has been known in educational circles as student-centered education reflects a perspective of the whole child, while acknowledging that we, as educators, primarily address that aspect of a child that shows up in an educational context. Our vision of this concept recognizes a much broader framework for the learner’s experience than what is outlined by curriculum standards and traditional education methods.