Monday, December 16, 2013

gifts and occupations...

I had written before about Froebel's "gifts" and "occupations" and realize that I'd not come to a full understanding of what was meant by the terms. This is a confusion that comes in part from the marketing of Froebel's gifts, the fact that the gifts were always in some new stage of development, and many of the "occupations" were at some point packaged to be sold as "gifts." For instance the occupation "sticks and peas" was packaged and sold by Milton Bradley as the 19th gift. The following is from Kindergarten in a Nutshell, 1899:
Relation of the Occupations to the Gifts

"It will be seen, as soon as we begin to study the occupations, that they are closely related to the gifts, using much the same materials, illustrating the same progression (although in the opposite direction) from point to line, line to plane, and plane to solid, laying the same stress upon relations of form and number, cultivating some of the same virtues, and giving the same wide opportunities for individual work or invention. Still there are marked differences between them, prominent among which is that the gift material undergoes no essential change when used, while change is the first requisite in dealing with the occupations. We may take the blocks apart and employ them as we like, but at the close of the play they are always returned to the original shape; in the occupation of folding, on the other hand, we begin to modify the square, and to bend it into something else as soon as we take it in our hands. Another marked point of difference is that the ideas received through the gifts are commonly worked out through the occupations — that is, impression in the one becomes expression in the other."
These occupations were based on the kinds of craft projects and handwork pastimes Froebel had seen as traditional in a German home. They included paper folding, weaving with paper, strings and sticks, punching holes to create patterns, braiding, and sticks and peas. The occupations were arranged in order developmentally and were offered concurrently with the child's exploration of the gifts, those educational objects that remained essentially unchanged through use. The gifts were permanent forms used to explore temporal relationships and arrangements of the elements of those forms. The occupations used materials to create more permanent and lasting forms. The gifts were to act upon the child's understanding of the world, and the occupations were the child's expression in return. That small part I had gotten right in my earlier understanding.

It is interesting that some highly educated folks can present such excellence in their recitation of information, and be so persuasive in their arguments and be so lacking in truth in their positions.
"As soon as we, young or old, have taken to the habit of asking the book for what it is in our power to learn from personal observation, we dismiss our organs of perception and comprehension from their righteous charge, and cover the emptiness of our own minds with the patchwork of others." --Édouard Séguin
"Without an accurate acquaintance with the visible and tangible properties of things, our conceptions must be erroneous, our inferences fallacious, and our operations unsuccessful." --Herbert Spencer
"The education of the senses neglected, all after-education partakes of a drowsiness, a haziness, an insufficiency, which is impossible to cure." --Lord Francis Bacon
Today at Clear Spring School my high school students will begin a class on 3-D design, based on my classes with adult students.

Make, fix and create...

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