Sunday, January 30, 2011

interests of the child

In educational sloyd, one of the guiding principles was to start with the interests of the child, then to move from the known to the unknown,  from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to more complex, from the concrete to the abstract in increments that nourished the continuing and expanding interests of the child.

In an ideal world, children would come to the classroom with high expectations for themselves,  racing to engage in the lessons offered. They would see the relevance of everything they learn as being to their competitive advantage. But schools just haven't worked out that way.  My  illustration above may be helpful in reminding that spheres of interest do not always coincide.

There are structural changes that can be made in education to bring the child's interests and classroom lessons into intersection.

Sometime back in the late 1700’s a child in Pestalozzi’s school challenged his teacher, “You want me to learn the word ladder, but you show me a picture. Wouldn’t it be better to go look at the real ladder in the shed?” The teacher was frustrated by the child’s remark and explained that he would rather not take the whole class outside the building just to look at a ladder. Later, the same child was shown the picture of a window and again interrupted the teacher. “Wouldn’t it be better to talk about the window that is right there? We don’t even have to go outside to look at it!” The teacher asked Pestalozzi about the incident and was informed that the child was right. Whenever possible children should learn from the real world and the experiences it offers.

So what can be done? First, take the kid out of the classroom for lessons that engage all the senses. Next, bring components of real life into the classroom to expand engagement of the senses. Third, engage the children in making things with real tools and materials. All senses are required for that. And finally, be prepared to assist the student in pursuing interests beyond the school walls through real world engagement in travel and internships. 

I want to thank those who are taking part in the poll at right. It appears so far that for many, learning is a multi-sensory experience.
"Theory," says Vives, "is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility." Since this is so, we should diligently seek out a method by which the young may be easily led to the practical application of natural forces, which is to be found in the arts.  -- M. W. Keatinge, The Great Didactic of Comenious

The following is from The Education of Man by Friedrich Froebel, writing on the senses.
The debasing illusion that man works, produces, creates only in order to preserve his body in order to secure food, clothing, and shelter, may have to be endured, but should not be diffused and propagated. Primarily and in truth, man works only that his spiritual, divine essence many assume outward form, and that thus he may be enabled to recognize his own spiritual, divine nature and the innermost being of God.

The young, growing human being should, therefore, be trained early for outer work, for creative and productive activity. For this there exists a double reason an inner and an outer requirement; and the former, inasmuch as it includes the latter, is of the greatest importance and eternal. The requirement is supported, too, by the nature of man as such.

The activity of the senses and limbs of the infant is the first germ, the first bodily activity, the bud, the first formative impulse; play, building modeling are the first tender blossoms of youth; and this is the period when man is to be prepared for future industry, diligence, and productive activity. Every child, boy and youth, whatever his condition or position in life should devote daily at least one or two hours to some serious activity in the production of some definite external piece of work. Lessons through and by work, through and from life, are by far the most impressive and intelligible, and the most continuously and intensely progressive both in themselves and in their effect on the learner. Notwithstanding this, children--mankind, indeed--are at present too much and too variously concerned with aimless and purposeless pursuits, and too little with work.
In other words, Make, fix, create.

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