Tuesday, January 19, 2010

can it be...

Can it be that in handling objects they might impart to us things of their essence that we are only partially enabled to understand? Something beyond pure reason or intellect? Something beyond their weight and texture? Something that might tell us more about ourselves? Friedrich Froebel worked in the Mineralogical Museum at the University of Berlin under the supervision of noted Crystalographer Christian Samuel Weiss. There, he worked with trays of minerals and crystalline forms, classifying and organizing. He wrote of this experience:
I continually proved to be true what had long been a presentiment with me, namely, that even in these so-called lifeless stones and fragments of rock, torn from their original bed, there lay germs of transforming, developing energy and activity. Amidst the diversity of forms around me, I recognized under all kinds of various modifications one law of development... And thereafter, my rocks and crystals served me as a mirror wherein I might descry* mankind, and man's development and history... Geology and crystallography not only opened up for me a higher circle of knowledge and insight, but also showed me a higher goal for my inquiry, my speculation, and my endeavor. Nature and man now seemed to me mutually to explain each other, through all their numberless various stages of development.
This somewhat mystical approach to objects and their effects were a major cause of disdain that many educators felt toward Friedrich Froebel and his kindergarten method. But if you are hands-on yourself, you might feel some kinship with Froebel and might have hands and fingers sensitive and integrated well enough to provide greater insight than what some might have. You can learn more about Froebel's use of crystalography in his plans for transforming education from Bart Kahr's article Crystal Engineering in Kindergarten. Many of my readers will already know of the relationship between Kindergarten, its theory and methods, and the development of the manual training movement. The power of objects to engage and transform, to shape the human intellect, has largely been forgotten as an educational method. What we put in our children's hands at too young an age steal the thunder from simple things like blocks and string. But with the application of wisdom, it is something we can fix.

*discover by careful observation or scrutiny.

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