Sunday, May 14, 2017

the flexibility of the brain.

Parents of young children will have noticed how quickly and easily they learn. Things are not so easy for those of us who are a bit older. Our friend Kari from Norway visited earlier in the week. I told her that I'd been studying my Norwegian for over 370 days using Duolingo, but when she asked me to say something, I was tongue tied and nothing intelligible came out.

We know that second, third and even fourth languages are easy to learn if you are within a certain age range, but that the brain does not work with the same ease in acquiring language if you have passed beyond that range. That doesn't mean that a second language cannot be learned, but it does mean that much more effort must be applied and you may never get it as well as a young child might.

I am clearly over the hill when it comes to picking up new languages with ease.

At one time the use of the hands was understood in the same light. The following is from Sir James Crichton-Browne
"The nascent period of the hand centres has not been accurately measured ... but its most active epoch being from the fourth to the fifteenth year, after which these centres in the large majority of persons become somewhat fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency ever afterwards.

"The small muscles of the eye, ear, larynx, tongue, and hand have much higher and more extensive intellectual relations than the large muscles of the trunk and limbs. If you would attain to the full intellectual stature of which you are capable, do not, I would say, neglect the physical education of the hand."
This article sheds some light on isolation of function between the various centers of the brain. As researchers performed certain tasks in making stone tools, those who had received verbal instructions rather than just visual instructions were reliant on parts of the brain that processed verbal instructions, while those who learned without verbal instructions were not using the verbal processing area of the brain at all.

Just think of the brain as a huge multidimensional resource. The way we teach too commonly in schools now with children sitting at desks is a near complete waste of most of it. And if we want our children to be well rounded and fully capable in all that they wish to apply themselves to, we would have a desk burning party and give students at all levels real things to do in service of their families and communities. The best way to observe and measure the engagement of the child's mind in real life and real learning is to put the hands in service of it. The hands and mind are an instructional device through which the child can not only observe the world, but test his or her own power in changing it. The hands and their behaviors are also a means through which we can measure their learning and intelligence.

So how do I propose we put the hands at the center of learning? There are lots of ways. Laboratory Science, Instrumental Music, hands-on math, field trips, gardening, internships and more. And let's not forget wood shop.

Yesterday we had a workday at the new ESSA woodshop. It is a lovely space, as you can see.

Make, fix, create and increase the chances that all learn likewise.

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