Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Concrete vs. Abstract.

Even educators need to be educated, and educational theory applies even to those who have advanced degrees. One of the major hurdles in education reform and arts education is that there is a large part of the population that just don't get the arts. The arts are too abstract. Many are embarrassed by a lack of artistic skill. Many just haven't been exposed to the arts. The arts don't necessarily seem to do anything practical to fit the bottom line (except bring parents out in droves to exhibitions to see what their children have created.) And so in educational reform, we need to turn our attention to the hands. We can talk about the arts all day until we are blue in the face and about half those we're talking to just won't know what we are talking about. So we and all those concerned with the arts must rely on the personal leverage offered by the hands to expand our nation's understanding of how we learn and how we each learn best. The early pedagogist's principles  "Move from the known to the unknown" and "move from the concrete to the abstract" explain the strategy that applies equally well to children and adults. You start with what we all have dangling at the ends of our wrists. Our hands. I call this the strategic implementation of the hands, and the strategy is the same whether we are teaching kids, or whether we are trying to stimulate educational reform. We move from the known to the unknown and the concrete to the abstract. The hands are concrete, the arts are abstract, and the path of education toward the arts is laid stone by stone by the hands.

Make, fix, create.

Today in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, first, second and third grade students worked on a new model of dinosaur at their own request. The long neck, as shown above and at left.


  1. Doug, I love using brace & bit for little guys. I find egg-beater drills simply too fiddly for the litte ones. Have you had the same experience?

  2. Mr. Pat, they love the big drill. And argue about who gets to be first to use it. The great thing about it is that it is extremely unlikely to pinch fingers, and kids are much better at large motor skills than fine ones like those of operating the egg beater drills.

    The first grade students want me to hold the drill while they move the crank, but then the 2nd and 3rd grade students want to do it all themselves.

  3. That jives with my experience too - thanks! I'm looking for a brace with a three-jaw chuck which can take round-shanked bits...I'm only finding one example in the G-W catalog.