Sunday, March 28, 2010

the effects of hands on learning...

Biologists and chemists are concerned with the preservation of diverse ecosystems as the storehouse and source for biological materials that took eons to evolve. There is a race to gather plant species before they are erased by loss of habitat and changing climate. When you lose species of enzyme producing plants, you lose a whole catalogue of chemicals with potential for curing disease, for creating new materials for manufacturing or for understanding life itself.

What happens when we lose the range of hand skills involved in crafts? What happens when instead of making things, children spend all their time hunched over miniature electronic devices? Do we begin to lose our human capacity for direct and effective problem solving? Take a moment and explore your own hands. You will find 10 fingers, the foundation of mathematics. In the sequential movements of thumb and fingers of one hand, you will find the human inclination to plan actions in sequence. Enmeshing the fingers of left and right hands, you will find the human inclination to integrate diverse observations into a comprehensive theoretical framework. In examining left and right as separate forms, we discover symmetry and the capacity to reproduce symmetry in design. In other words, our abilities to count, to measure, to plan, to design, and to create are gifts of the cognitive partnership between brain and hand. The hands model conception, the brain conceives, and the hands create, thus modeling further conception and creation.

Should we be concerned about the human loss of hand skills and age old techniques for problem solving and creativity? Compared with the loss of whole ecosystems perhaps the threat is not so huge. And there are simple things we can do about it.

If we want our children to be diminished in capacity, let's leave them hunched over their miniature electronic devices. If not, let's send them to the wood shop, where they can learn to create.

1 comment:

Dave Armishaw said...

I don't think we'll lose the ability, but we all, regardless of vocation, can benefit from valuing practice and excellence in "intelligent making" as activities equally praise-worthy as athletic excellence, for example.

Put another way, are parents as proud when a child brings home something they made as scoring baskets? Or if a teen wants to be a cabinetmaker instead of computer programmer?