Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The mothers of Appenzell

Pestalozzi wrote that the mothers of Appenzell would hang colorful paper birds above their cradles to engage their child's attention. In that Pestalozzi discovered the fundamental principles of education. He wrote:
"To me the Appenzell bird, like the ox to the Egyptians, is a holy thing, and I have done everything to begin my instruction at the same point as the Appenzell woman. I go further. Neither at the first point, nor in the whole series of means of teaching, do I leave to chance what Nature, circumstance, or mother-love may present to the sense of the child before he can speak. I have done all I could to make it possible, by omitting accidental characteristics, to bring the essentials of knowledge gained by sense-impression to the child's senses before that age, and to make the conscious impressions he receives, unforgettable."
It could be said that the child's inclination to learn when released unconstrained is indomitable, and that we learn best when we are awake and all our senses are fully engaged. I was reminded of this yesterday when Ozric, standing at the lathe remarked, "This feels better than anything I've done in my whole life." The following is from Pestalozzi: His Aim and Work by Roger Guimps available free from Google Books:
"Pestalozzi remarks that it is the means a mother employs with her infant under the inspiration of instinct and love she shows nature to it she brings it near distant objects she brings to it those striking things that attract its gaze. She does this to quiet the child and distract it. She has no idea of instructing it and yet she in this way gives it the first and most indispensable elements of instruction. Why does not the art of teaching link on its processes to these simple and precious beginnings?"
The simple point is that anyone who has learned from a variety of situations, will recognize the truth. We learn best and to greatest lasting effect when we are actually engaged in doing something.... as when the hands are brought into play.

Allan Breed wrote this month's Master Class in Fine Woodworking, April 2013, No. 232, "Customizing your Carving Tools" and he described having bought his teacher's tools after the man's death. He noted that "some were obviously ground for specific purposes, what purposes, I did not know, but one by one they revealed themselves over the years." Left to his own devices with these special tools, these small discoveries were more powerful than words could convey. The article shows, not just tells, how to modify common woodcarving tools to get uncommon results.

Adding reinforcing keys...
There is this idea that education (and learning) is about symbols, the letters and numbers whose manipulation enables one to perform on tests, standardized and otherwise. If that were truly and only the case, the tool customized to fit the hand and the task and the sensitivity in workmanship and beauty thus derived would never be. Real learning is about more than symbols. It must be about reality. In another word,  it must be real. Howard Gardner noted that we are intelligent in different ways and that education should be structured to allow for the variations in human intellect. Teachers have struggled through artificial constructs to utilize Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. But making things real, engaging all the senses as one can do in wood shop, making beautiful and useful objects is the answer most suitable and most effective for most kids.

Today in my wood shop, I began putting hinges on boxes. I also visit Clear Spring School  to talk to my fellow teaching staff about next projects.

Make, fix and create...

No comments: