Monday, January 23, 2012

smart kids...

Learning is the most natural thing on earth. And yet we have difficulty getting children in schools to learn. How can that be? For the second time this week I quote Williams James from his book Talks to Teachers on Psychology because he hits the nail on its head:

"Constructiveness is another great instinctive tendency with which the schoolroom has to contract an alliance. Up to the eighth or ninth year of childhood one may say that the child does hardly anything else than handle objects, explore things with his hands, doing and undoing, setting up and knocking down, putting together and pulling apart; for, from the psychological point of view, construction and destruction are two names for the same manual activity. Both signify the production of change, and the working of effects, in outward things. The result of all this is that intimate familiarity with the physical environment, that acquaintance with the properties of material things, which is really the foundation of human consciousness. To the very last, in most of us, the conceptions of objects and their properties are limited to the notion of what we can do with them. A 'stick' means something we can lean upon or strike with; 'fire,' something to cook, or warm ourselves, or burn things up withal; 'string,' something with which to tie things together. For most people these objects have no other meaning. In geometry, the cylinder, circle, sphere, are defined as what you get by going through certain processes of construction, revolving a parallelogram upon one of its sides, etc. The more different kinds of things a child thus gets to know by treating and handling them, the more confident grows his sense of kinship with the world in which he lives. An unsympathetic adult will wonder at the fascinated hours which a child will spend in putting his blocks together and rearranging them. But the wise education takes the tide at the flood, and from the kindergarten upward devotes the first years of education to training in construction and to object-teaching. I need not recapitulate here what I said awhile back about the superiority of the objective and experimental methods. They occupy the pupil in a way most congruous with the spontaneous interests of his age. They absorb him, and leave impressions durable and profound. Compared with the youth taught by these methods, one brought up exclusively by books carries through life a certain remoteness from reality: he stands, as it were, out of the pale, and feels that he stands so; and often suffers a kind of melancholy from which he might have been rescued by a more real education.
Early educators from Comenius, to Francis Bacon, to Pestalozzi, Froebel, Cygnaeus, Dewey, and Montessori, all held in common the understanding that the handling of objects, the examination of them through the senses, the making of things having useful beauty, were all essential to the processes of learning and growth. What more can I say? Education is not a matter of making kids smart... Kids are already moving on their own in that direction, and it is time to stop standing in their way, but rather make best use of their own natural inclinations. Today, one of my 6th grade students (a girl) said, "I wish I could always be in wood shop." I know just how she feels.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Jen's Busy Days said...

"one brought up exclusively by books carries through life a certain remoteness from reality: he stands, as it were, out of the pale, and feels that he stands so; and often suffers a kind of melancholy from which he might have been rescued by a more real education"

This is so true of myself. As a young girl I read a lot. I didn't live in my real world much but more in my imagination. While imagination is not bad and is definitely an asset in some parts of life it is no good unless it has a foundation of knowledge of the physical world.

I wonder if the same could be said of watching lots of television. National Geographic may have its place in learning about animals on the other side of the world but wouldn't it be better to get out in our own backyards and learn about the animals there and their environment, the one we share and may have some influence over. Most of us can't do much to control the environment in some remote jungle or desert.

I love visiting your site. It inspires me a lot in my homeschooling endeavours.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz