Tuesday, April 01, 2014

bubbles on work sheets or real world Kindergarten?

It seems we have a choice. School boards, and policy makers are pushing things in the wrong direction. The choice is whether we confine children to chairs and have them fill up sheets of bubbles on standardized tests, or whether we invest in their safely doing real things.

It seems that others are also remembering what kindergarten was intended to be in the first place... a time of learning through play, not simply a time to get a leg up on standardized tests. This article in Yes Magazine helps to explain it. You can't bounce off walls if there are no walls.

Standardized tests were one of the dumbest inventions in education. While they might have some diagnostic value, they stand between the teacher and student, relieving the teacher of being fully engaged on a personal level, thus allowing the teacher to handle larger numbers of kids efficiently and at low cost. And we get what we pay for. Crappy education.

Play actually has value at all ages. Most adults find it the most effective way to inspire learning.

Our Clear Spring School campus has about 5 acres of woods that are used by the kids to build forts, run and let off steam. In the early fall, the woods are closed due to dangers from ticks and chiggers, but after the first frost, a school wide meeting is held and all the kids go over the rules. They have to respond to the bell. They have to be inclusive of others in their play, regardless of age. And so we are in the unique situation in which children of all ages play together. Even our high school students play with first graders and even our youngest have friends of all ages.

Some would say that kids playing in the woods is dangerous. We are lucky to live in a relatively safe environment. Some would say that kids playing in the woods is an avoidance of actual learning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human culture must arise new with each generation. That means that kids need to be learning how to work together in social collaborations of their own choosing.

Parents and school administrators would like kids to be under direct parental control at all times. Finnish Neuro-physiologist Matti Bergstöm calls that the "white game." The black game is the game children make up for themselves, and they must be trusted to play that game in order to learn and grow and become invested in the advance of culture. And while the kids are in the woods, they discover things that few schools make any effort to teach... that we really do live in a real world that involves multi-sensory experience and learning.

It is a fraud for many kindergartens to call themselves "kindergartens." The name itself came from Friedrich Froebel and his educational methods. If there is no play in it, it should be named something else so as to stop deceiving, and so as to stop Froebel from spinning over and over in his grave.

Today I met with the donor of new lathes to the Wisdom of the Hands program and we spent some time assembling them, moving them into place and playing. How about turning stock and then carving a spiral pattern in it? Buzz made it seem easy.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Doug,

    The history of standardized testing is not a pretty one. It's worth a read.


  2. Doug-

    I haven't checked in for sometime, but I would like you to know that my woodworking program is doing very well at our alternative school in town. I feel like I am empowering kids with something more valuable than answers to a common test. Everyday I get to share something that I am passionate about and my kids do get to do some uncommon things with hand tools ...and this makes them feel special! Thanks for the inspiration.

    All the best, Chris Sagnella- CT

  3. Mario, where's the best place to read about that history? Do you have any suggestions?

    Chris, I'm glad you're still at it.

  4. Doug,

    Tests and Measurements was one of my graduate school classes, but that was a VERY long time ago. I'll look around and see what I have or can find.