Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gift 5 B

I am working on Froebel's gift 5 B. It involves half rounds (12) and cove cut blocks (8) used to form Romanesque architectural forms, columns and arches, in addition to  12 cubes and 12 quarter cubes. You can see that gifts in the 5 and 6 series are larger and more complex. This particular chapter will have 3 different sets of blocks, gifts 5, 5b and 6, each of which can be made either with hand tools as made by Froebel or with power tools, as were made by Milton Bradley and other kindergarten supply manufacturers. The cove cut block in the photo above was cut with a gouge and the half-round formed with a router, though it, too, would have been made with simpler tools in Froebel's day.

In either case, the idea here is that parents and grandparents might make the gifts for their own children, and that they, knowing the benefits of Froebel's Kindergarten would begin to expect much more from public education. Knowing where Kindergarten once fit in the education of our nation's children, educators and parents also are led to understand where manual arts fit in, and why they remain important to our kids. At Clear Spring School kids love wood shop.

If our preference is to develop a society of mindless consumers, by all means we are on the right track. But if we hope that our nation might be something more than that and that our children get the benefits of mind and character that engagement in creating useful beauty can provide, perhaps going back to Kindergarten would be the coarse we would choose for ourselves and our kids. A truly meaningful educational experience would start with what we can learn in Kindergarten and build from progressively following the theory of educational Sloyd: from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract, and all starting with the interests of the child.

According to the essay "Kindergarten Culture" in the Paradise of Childhood,
"Definite ideas are to originate as abstractions from perceptions. (Anshauungen, as the Germans say, meaning literally the looking at or into things.) If they do not originate in such manner they are not the product of one's own mental activity, but simply the consent of the understanding to the ideas of others. By far the greatest part of all acquired knowledge with the mass of the people, is of this kind. Everyone, however, even the least gifted, may acquire a stock of fundamental perceptions, which shall serve as points of relation in the process of thinking."
So what is truly involved when a child is engrossed in the process of making a beautiful and useful object, or an adult, for that matter, spends time in the wood shop? Are we not aligning ourselves (even if unconsciously) with the most basic human impulse? that to:

Make, fix and create...

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