Thursday, September 24, 2015

self-activity and the impact of real learning.

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To create becomes an addictive process but one that needs not be detrimental to our communities. It makes a difference what we make. You might get an idea in mind to create something that threatens others, or you may carve a spoon and feed soup.

Nevertheless, it was Froebel's idea (though he was not the first to express it) that what a child learned needed to be balanced by the expression of that learning through what a child did with it. Hence, making was to be as much a part of schooling as books and lectures.

The reason I say that making and creating can become an addictive process is that the feedback we receive by observing our own hands in the creative process fulfill what Abraham Maslow called "self-actualization." As we create, even at the smallest scale, we observe our own skill, our own power and own potential for growth. And so in that manner, making and the urge to make anchors itself at the very heart of life-long learning.

When I was visiting on Monday in Little Rock, a woman from the organization of charter schools asked, "The Wisdom of the Hands idea might also be expressed in fields other than woodworking, right?" And of course that it true. But it is best conveyed by those with real passion for the creative process, and a true understanding of the ways skill builds both character and intelligence in kids. Can a painter, or a potter or  or blacksmith or skilled technician in robotics perform the same function in schooling? The answer is yes, but, there's more.

There are aspects in the very nature of woodworking, related in part to the fundamental inter-connectedness of it and to what Ivan Illich called "tools of conviviality," that make it particularly well suited to educational purposes.

In the days of Educational Sloyd, Otto Salomon spelled out the differences between woodworking and other crafts in his effort to explain why woodworking sloyd was best. I need to do the same thing now, but add to it the various ways that woodworking better connects with a child's interests and the interests of society at a deeper level.

In any case, self-activity is a relatively simple concept, but one that must not be ignored for more than a minute regardless of grade level.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others have the opportunity to learn likewise.

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