Saturday, January 11, 2014

If his oportunities are good...

The play equipment at left doesn't look like much more than a dangerous pile of junk... but what fun could be had upon it! The photo is from Jean Lee Hunt's Catalog of Play Equipment. Hunt mentioned in her book that children living in the countryside had imaginative play opportunities that children in the cities did not have and play equipment like that shown in her  book was proposed to make up for that serious deficiency.

At  one time educators talked about the ways that the hands effected learning. Now they talk about their iPads and their hopes that technology will do what teachers in schools are not afforded the opportunity to do... engage children more deeply in learning.  But the hands now neglected and ignored have always had the power to engage children in deep learning. The following is from The Normal Child and Primary Education.
When compared with sight and hearing, touch has been called an unintellectual sense; but such a statement is seriously misleading. The most fundamental data for our perception of distance, direction, size, and form come through the feel gate. Only handling and manual activity can put vividness and content into the perceptions of the outside world. The child must begin in very infancy its acquaintance with the resistance and construction qualities of paper, sand, cloth, wood, etc. By gradual stages he gets farther and farther into the heart of things, and learns the essentials of what engineers call the materials of construction. If his opportunities are good, he will by tools learn the individuality of various woods, cardboard, leather, wire, fibers, clay, glass, stone, wool, cotton, and by dabbling acquire enough about every art to give him an appreciative apperception for everything that man has made. Our point is that he cannot get this appreciation by mere reading or listening or even observation. His skin and tendons and muscles must be stimulated before he gets the kernel of reality in any physical thing. For this reason much of the object teaching in the schools is not nearly so effective as is often fondly believed. It is only eye-deep, and what children need is the opportunity to handle and stroke. A picture is better than a word, a stuffed bird better than a picture of one, but nothing can take the place of putting a little live creature into the palms, where fifty thousand touch bulbs will tingle with the fluffiness of the feathers. Such a contact experience will establish a warm, tactile sympathy for the object, beside which a mere visual impression, however definite, is feeble and anesthetic. The do-not-touch principle, at school, home, and expositions, is unfortunately limiting.

There is a whole group of biological reasons why touch is of all the senses the most fundamental, not only for the development of intellectual perception but also for the growth of our aesthetic, emotional nature. Touch is chronologically first in the history of mind. With the possible exception of hunger, it is the most ancient of all experiences. There were touch sensations in the primordial sea where the earliest life began. There were touch sensations in the mud and on the land billions of years before the continents took their present shape and before man appeared upon the face of these continents. Touch is most intimately associated with the fundamental instincts of workmanship, hunger, sex, curiosity, fighting, and sympathy. Moreover, it is most vague, diffuse, and general in character. All these reasons combine to make it the most profoundly and massively emotional of all the senses, especially in childhood, when its ancestral values tend once more to emerge from the deep levels of the nervous system.
I have mentioned before that we talk about our emotions using the same words that we use when we talk about our sense of touch. We feel things, and the depth our engagement and the depth of our feelings are approached in the same manner, through connections made through our hands.

The crochet ball in the photo above was made by our middle school teacher at Clear Spring School. I've wondered how to make such things as part of my interest in Froebel's kindergarten, and I've learned that those who do crochet, are often itching for new projects to test their abilities and interests. They are just like woodworkers except that they don't need wood shops.

Yesterday I spent the whole day going over edits of my new book and taking photos to illustrate various concepts in box design for the 8 design sidebars in the book.

Make, fix and create...

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