Monday, November 24, 2014

into the woods.

Froebel's gift number 6
Froebel gift set number 6 consists of 36 blocks, 1/2 in. thick. There are 18 blocks just as used in Gift number 4, 1 in.  wide x 2 inches long. In addition there are 12 square half blocks, and 6 column half blocks. With these few blocks wonderful things can be built. These stack to form a 6 layer cube that can be stored neatly in the box.

We are off this coming week at Clear Spring School due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I need to say just a few words about last week. Each year when the ticks and other biting insects are killed by our first freezing days of winter, the woods surrounding the Clear Spring School campus are opened for play. This happened last week, just as it does each year with an official ceremony called "opening the woods."

The children are given specific rules to follow. One of these is that they must respond to the bell and come immediately back to the school grounds. There are very clear boundaries set for their exploration. The tradition is for them to form non-exclusive groups and for them to organize forts. When my daughter was in Clear Spring School, she came home each day with stories about "Double Tree" and about the competition with rival groups for sticks and other building supplies. Building forts and organizing play in the woods remains one of the most memorable of her experiences at the Clear Spring School. In the school wood shop on Thursday, the kids all wanted to make tools to work on their forts and signs to mark them out and with the woods having just opened for the season, there was genuine excitement in the air.

There are two very good reasons for children to play in the woods. The first is that the children need to be engaged in direct investigation in the outdoors. We accomplish this in part through extensive outdoor education, field trips and camping, but they also need to establish personal relationships to the outdoors. The second has to do with what Matti Bergström has called the "black white game." What parents and teachers want children to do he calls the white game. What children want to do of their own inclinations he calls the black game. In the latter, children explore and establish their own relationships with others and with material reality. He said in discussion of this game that human culture must arise new within each generation. And so it will. Children from Clear Spring School are equipped for that. We call it "play" and it happens at recess, but it is educational. And when you see students at Clear Spring running excitedly through the woods, there is a reason for it.

Tim Holton sent two related links from KQED: Forest Kindergartens Push Back Against Academic Focus For Young Kids and Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten. At Clear Spring School, outdoor education is nothing new and starts in pre-primary school. Thanks, Tim.

In my own shop today, I will be making sets of Froebel blocks, taking a few photos and writing about it.

Make, fix and create...

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