Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The nature of a boy's work...

I had a great first day of box making at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, but forgot to take photos. Educational Sloyd had been criticized by some as being uncreative. For instance while William James spoke out clearly as an advocate, early psyhologist G. Stanley Hall was one of those critical of its method of utilizing models to encourage steady and sequential development of skill. Many observers like Hall (and some teachers) who might have missed the first principle of Educational Sloyd, that of "starting with the interests of the child might miss the point that the models were never intended as a rigid structure that might stifle individual creativity. The following is from Gustaf Larsson's address to the Eastern Manual Training Association in 1904.
...the nature of a boy's work is considered of supreme importance; a boy (or girl) must make something which he considers to be worth making and which he likes to make: in this way the stimulus of interest is secured, by which means useful but unsuspected exercises are accomplished, and the steady development of muscular as well as mental power is begun. American boys like to make many things which would not be popular in Sweden, and vice-versa. A country boy has different ideas of things from one brought up in the city. A boy who lives among the mountains will have different tastes and needs from the boy who lives by the sea shore. Even individuals in the same school show a wide difference of taste and power. A teacher is often confronted by a problem like this. Three boys have skill enough to make a half lap joint. One wishes to make a stand for a ring toss, another prefers a wind mill, the third, a stand for his mother s flower pot. If, in each of these three objects or models, the desired exercise is involved, the teacher is able to give the boy the exercise needed, at this stage of development, without the sacrifice of spontaneity, and this is the result of a carefully thought out and elastic course of work and is a true "adaptation" of Slovd. When we consider it important that models should be adapted to individual needs, in the same school, it is evident that different schools and different localities may call for very different models, which they should have at hand and can have, without the sacrifice of Sloyd principles.
In my own school woodshop, we've used some Sloyd models, but we would be in violation of Sloyd principles to rigidly adhere in slavery to a system developed for kids in the nineteenth century. And so, in the blog I've been hesitant to create a set curriculum for teachers to follow but would prefer that teachers become familiar with the principles of Educational Sloyd which were simply based on observation of how children learn. Start with the interests of the child. Move from the known to the uknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. Make, fix and create...

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