On today’s episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, we’re talking with Gregg Behr & Ryan Rydzewski about their new book When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mr Roger’s Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids.

Gregg Behr is the executive director of The Grable Foundation. He is also a father and children’s advocate whose work is inspired by the legacy of his hero, Fred Rogers.

Ryan Rydzewski is an award-winning author, reporter, and speechwriter whose science and education stories span everything from schools to space travel to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Let’s listen in as they talk about community, collaboration and the enduring lessons of Mr. Rogers.

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Gregg Behr launched Remake Learning shortly after taking leadership at the Grable Foundation, this was spurred by a commitment to kids and creativity. “[Initially] I wasn’t originally familiar with learning sciences, didn’t have the science in mind,” said Gregg. Eventually, with learning science in hand, he realized “we could pursue a future of much more active learning. 15 years later it’s a network of over 600 museums, schools, etc.”

Both Gregg and Ryan grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He is a Pittsburgh staple, making his presence even more consistent in their lives. “He treated his shows as personal visits between “me and you. Fred Rogers’ work was a ministry. Rather than teaching skills, it was a beautiful giving of himself.”

Ryan noted that in many ways Mr. Rogers was ahead of his time, but particularly with regards to pedagogy. “He was a reminder to keep kids at the center of it all.”

In the book, the authors suggest that the ‘neighborhood’ was “highly engineered to enrich lives and future growth”… …that “Roger’s based every story, every song, every script on what had been proven benefit for children.” This was done through the intentionality of the intro sequence and the composition of the songs. “All of these songs are really songs about how we feel about ourselves. If we can accept ourselves as we are, we will be able to accept others as they are too.”

In the book, the authors quote Mr. Rogers as having said “listening is where love begins.” They reiterate the importance of listening without judgment and the fact that every feeling is valid to children. It is our job to understand, not correct.

Gregg and Ryan hope that this book reaches parents, families, caregivers and educators in any setting where their children learn. They also hope that this book helps to elucidate the blueprints of whole child, learning science and curriculum.

Through the process of writing the book they continued to learn. Ryan says that the process of writing this book made me a better person, a better listener and it demystified how he can be more like Mr. Rogers.

“[Due to this book] I have found myself wondering and trying to wonder in bigger ways,” said Gregg Behr.

Key Takeaways:

[:10] About today’s episode with Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski.
[:46] Tom welcomes Gregg and Ryan to the podcast.
[1:08] Gregg speaks about his educational background and the thread of ethics and character formation that run through his work.
[1:57] How and when did Gregg discover the power of active learning that is behind Remake Learning? What is the origin story of Remake Learning?
[5:44] Ryan shares why he decided to teach at East Baton Rouge Parish School System back in 2009 after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
[6:23] Did Ryan have any classes in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh?
[7:01] Gregg shares when and how Mister Rogers entered the picture in his world.
[8:28] Ryan speaks about his connection to Mister Rogers growing up and why he found him so inspiring.
[9:21] Gregg shares about Fred Rogers’ presence across the Pittsburgh community.
[10:39] Ryan elaborates on how the environment of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was highly engineered to enrich lives and future growth and how every script, song, and story was created in alignment with proven research that benefited children.
[12:13] Why warmth and safety are so important in creating space for curiosity, and the ways in which Fred Rogers embodied warmth and safety that unlocked learning for children.
[14:19] Gregg highlights other points of intentionality in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that they uncovered while writing their book, When You Wonder, You’re Learning.
[15:04] Why they incorporated many song lyrics into their book.
[16:22] Gregg shares what he believes Mister Roger was trying to evoke when he asked, “What might you do?” on his show.
[17:54] Mister Roger has said, “Listening is where love begins.” What did Ryan learn about listening in writing the book?
[19:33] Gregg shares what he thinks Fred Rogers’ advice would be today about working together and collaboration.
[21:35] As a writer, did Ryan find this book easy or hard to write?
[22:51] Gregg shares the main mission of their book, who they tried to address, and what they hoped to accomplish by writing it.
[24:58] About a powerful new tool that every teacher should be using with their students: The Well-Being Index by Turnaround for Children.
[25:50] Ryan shared what he learned about himself from working on this project and how he continues to learn going forward.
[27:44] What Ryan is doing to make himself a better writer and his advice for young writers.
[28:48] Gregg shared what he learned about himself from working on the book and how he continues to learn about the practice of philanthropy.
[30:50] Tom and Jessica thank Ryan and Gregg for joining the podcast!

Mentioned in This Episode:


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