Thursday, March 10, 2011

a proposal for the arts....

My regular readers may just skip over this as there is nothing new, but I am working on a proposal for funding and I am gathering my thoughts. Or, if you like, you may comment below and add to my reflections on this issue. You may be able to add the necessary component to fine-tune my proposal.

Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras said that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands. More recently mathematician and scientific historian Jacob Bronowski had said, "the hands are the cutting edge of mind." And so we wonder, can the hands also be the cutting edge of education and the leading edge of educational reform? How can we actually get a grip on the educational problems we face? Can it be that the hands provide the elusive handle on necessary reform?

We started the Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School in September 2001 with the intent of proving the value of woodworking education as a component in an integrated curriculum. From that point, as a high school only program, we were led to start woodworking in the lower grades as a way of strategic implementation of the hands, based on the idea of early educational theorists, that the use of the hands was essential to the full development of mind. Since 2003 we have had wood shop in all grades from 1 though 12 as a means of purposefully engaging the hands of children in learning math, science, art, music, geography, history and literature.

In 2005, inspired by the successful integration and effectiveness of the Wisdom of the Hands program the Board of Clear Spring School changed the mission statement to read as follows: Together, all at Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a hands-on and hearts-engaged educational environment. Based on that mission, the curriculum and methods in use at Clear Spring School have been refocused on the purposeful integration of our children's hands in all classes and subjects to bring more effective learning.

Those of us engaged in the arts understand the role of the hands in our own learning. We know that we learn more enthusiastically, more effectively, and to greater lasting effect when we learn hands on. This is known and widely accepted throughout the arts community, and widely ignored in modern American education. It is even worse in the schools most at risk. Overall, between 1982 and 2008, students having received arts education dropped from 65 percent to 50 percent, with the decline being even more severe for minority students, blacks and Latinos.

And so, how do we bridge the gap and break the barriers preventing the vast field of American educators from grasping the strategic value of the hands?

Now with 5 years of purposeful integration of the hands in practice throughout the Clear Spring School, in all subjects and all grade levels, the challenge becomes one of speaking the language of other educators, and to a larger audience, outside the arts, crafts and music disciplines. And so, how do we do that?

The primary means through which educators view learning and school performance is through standardized testing. As unfortunate as that may be, testing will likely be a necessary part of the dialog that will be required to bring the value of hands-on learning to the attention of a larger audience. We are seeking support to measure our children's performance against others, but with other vital measures included: qualities of character and intelligence that are most often ignored in normal standardized testing, but are essential to children's later long term success. These are the important measurable matters of social adjustment, interpersonal problem solving, cooperative and creative problem solving, curiosity, and educational enthusiasm. In these particular areas, we feel that hands-on learning stacks up to our distinct advantage. It is what we see everyday and want to share with the world for the sake of all our children.

1 comment:

toysmith said...

Doug,

A big chunk of my "day job" is finding ways to document the learning (in head, heart, and body) that kids experience both in and out of school. If you'd like to collaborate or share resources in this regard, please let me know.

-Larry