Tuesday, May 03, 2011

the other things...

I keep talking in the blog about the way the hands can transform education. When learning is hands-on instead of scripted to conform to text books, when teachers are provided the creative challenge of doing real things hands-on with their students, incredible things can happen to enrich learning, to improve teacher self-esteem and transform the effectiveness of education. They have to be trusted for that, and sadly, our nation does not, but would prefer to vilify teachers as the cause of school failure.

But that is only a small part of the story. There are other things the hands do. And so here is a partial list as a brief reminder, encouraging you to get in touch.
  1. Being creatively engaged through the hands brings connections to the whole of human history and culture. If you visit a museum or walk the streets of New York (or your own community) and have experience in the making of things, you see things with greater insight, and deeper feelings of connection.
  2. Being creatively through your hands brings changes in chemical balance, alleviating depression, enhancing feelings of well-being.
  3. Use of the hands brings feelings of self-esteem, feelings of real accomplishment, personal power, and sense of place within community.
  4. Use of the hands builds character, patience, and appreciation of the contributions made by others.
  5. Use of the hands makes us smarter, provides a foundation for common sense.
  6. Use of the hands allows us to test our intellectual hypotheses, bringing us closer to the truth, engaging each of us in the exploration of science.
  7. Making things is fun. The things we have made contribute to the lives of others. And you and I can go on and on citing one benefit after another.
You don't have to take my word for any of this. These are things you can test in your own hands. Please accept this list as an invitation to reflect on your own hands-on engagement. Heads sans hands makes us a nation of dummies. Heads and hands, and the reverse shall be found true.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, the first, second and third grade students worked on fractions. We took round discs of wood, cut them in half, then cut half into quarters, then a quarter into eights. Then I showed them how the same fractions are used in measuring for woodworking, by comparing the small parts we had cut to the "super inch." Tara questioned, incredulously,"You mean we've been doing math? In wood shop?" "Yes, in case you hadn't noticed, wood shop is all about math," I replied. "I didn't know that math was fun!" Tara replied enthusiastically.

I am preparing a lecture for 100 4th grade students at Bayyari Elementary School in Springdale, Arkansas on Friday. How do you hold the attention of 4th grade students for a twenty minute presentation? I'll have to do it without my usual array of tools, and it brings me to contemplate what teachers in public schools do each and every day.

For yourselves and for your children, make, fix and create.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've got a tough job ahead of you with those fourth graders!

Mario