Saturday, January 26, 2013

models and growth...

Educational Sloyd was designed to build gradually on the students' innate qualities by moving from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the concrete to the abstract and from the simple to more complex, and in order to make this progression, Salomon's teaching staff at Nääs devised a system of sequential models that grew in difficulty and complexity as students progressed through the model series. Salomon regarded this model series approach as his "Columbus Egg", a self evident discovery that would seem  simple and readily understood by those educators to follow. The system was what allowed self-actualized learning and individualized rather than class instruction. Instead of every student doing the exact same thing at the exact same time, as in class instruction, students were able to move on through the model series at will, and with minimal guidance from the teacher. The idea was that rather than education being teacher driven it would be driven forward by the interests of the child.

Think for a few moments about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with self-actualization and self-actualized learning at the top of the psychological pyramid. Self-actualization as expressed by self-directed activity and self-directed learning would be what we (if we were smart) would want most for our kids.

I should note that Salomon did not believe a model series to be carved in stone. At Nääs, model series were always works in progress, and were adaptable and fine tuned to meet the needs of each child. The teacher's tact came into play in assessing the developmental needs of each child. Educational Sloyd's first premise was to start with and maintain the interests of the child, and Salomon knew that children's interests would not be the same all over the world. So he shared the system of thought which went into designing a model series in his book, Teacher's Hand-Book of Sloyd,  and he encouraged teachers in other nations and cultures to amend the model series to meet the interests of their own scholars. My own copy is from the second edition and was printed in 1904.

Greg's hand tooled bench.
One of the things that had puzzled me in the past was the rationale for the arrangement of models. For instance, following a flower scoop with a curvilinear shape, requiring thick stock,  and tools including a frame saw, knife, gouges and possibly an axe, the next project would be a rectilinear form like a wooden box, made with thinner stock requiring hand saws, planes, marking tools and bench vise. Salomon explained in this book that the decision to alternate between rectilinear forms and those that cultivated skills in curvilinear forms was to maintain the interests of the child... the overriding goal. For education was to start with the interests of the child.

My apprentice Greg brought in his first second self-assignment as a completed work. I had loaned him my copy of a recent Fine Woodworking Magazine so that he could read an article by Christian Becksvort on making a bench with hand tools. Greg built it in his own shed. He chose a perfect project to develop skill. Recognizing that the quality of his work can be improved following what he learned from this, he plans to build another, bringing his work closer to perfection. He learned that even simple work, done well can be harder than one might expect, but also that it can be infinitely rewarding. Just like an early teacher of Sloyd, I had to give only minimal guidance toward the improvement of his work. From my teaching of children and adults, it appears that we all learn the same way.  And if we want our children to learn at their best, we should take advantage of what we know about ourselves, hands down.

Hardwood boxes, assembled veneers.
Today in the wood shop, I continued work on boxes and preparing veneers to go on top. Either tomorrow or next week, I'll cut the lids from the bodies of the boxes, and use the vacuum press to glue the veneers in place.

Make, fix and create...

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