Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gifts and occupations...

Yesterday in my home school woodworking class, students came with their train painted and finished, and then spent their last day of class making additional toys of their own choosing. Last week, I commented in the blog that there is a difference between making things with legos, and making things from real wood, and almost as though they had been reading the blog, that subject was brought up by my students. There is a difference. When materials are transformed, students see their real impact as transforming agents in the real world. Real tools, real materials, real impact.

Friedrich Froebel had devised "gifts and occupations" and the difference between those describes the difference between legos and woodshop. Legos are for learning and play and in their use, they remain unchanged. You know when you are making something with legos, that they will at some point be taken back apart and put away at the end of play unchanged, just as when designing with a set of Froebel blocks, you know that they will all fit neatly back in the box.

Froebel's gifts were exactly like that. His occupations on the other hand involved the transformation of materials.  In woodshop, once you've made a cut with a saw, there is no reverse, no delete, no going back. The craftsman and his work are transformed at the very same moment. In the exploration of occupations, the student sees himself as having real effect and effectiveness in the real universe.

You can play all day with legos and have fun in the process, but there is no distinct mark of having transformed either the materials or yourself. From the gifts, students grew toward the occupations, expressing greater self-reliance and creativity, becoming makers and  of useful beauty.

The unusual button toys shown below were a student's idea. The dowel marked with purple rings gives the appearance of Saturn's rings, and shows that even something as simple as a button toy can offer creative opportunities.

And as my students noted earlier, as my home school classes began, "who knew you could have so much fun with something so simple?"

I am beginning work on Freobel's gift number 7 which involves small wooden tiles, both square and triangular in sets. Again, small wooden boxes must be made.

Yesterday in our local newspaper the school superintendent of a neighboring community noted that when he enters a classroom and finds the students listening passively, they are not being effectively taught. Do you think he's gotten the message from this blog?

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I very much enjoy your blog. You give words to the pleasure I have in making a present or solving a shop problem. I have other interests, most passive. The act of making seems to validate the others. Thank you.

    Bruce Mack