Saturday, November 17, 2018

bridges and color wheels.

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we tested student bridges to see if we could break them by applying weight. The weight was applied by standing on them. The maximum weight was applied by their teacher Chris and me standing on one at the same time. The arched bridge thereby held about 410 lbs. without showing any sign of stress. That led the student whose bridge we tested to add more structural support. For what reason? He was extremely proud of his work and unwilling to consider it complete. It was fun at the end of the day, watching bridges be proudly taken home and displayed to their parents. You can be sure they also described the fun they had during the testing of their load bearing strength.

Yesterday I had 6 of our Kindergarten students in the wood shop to make "color wheels".  A color wheel to an artist is a wheel on paper illustrating the variety of colors and their interrelationships. The color wheels we made, and as shown in the photo are discs of wood on stands that the students could color and spin on a wooden axle. As the disc spins, the colors blend and merge and transform, so this project is in perfect alignment with Froebel's gifts. It is also a project I thought about in the middle of the night. I can imagine Froebel doing the same thing.

With Kindergarten students, a project does not necessarily need to make sense. They are ready for anything that can be made with nails, wood and glue. Colored markers offer even greater delight. Then if the project offers action of some kind and can be manipulated in some way, so much the better.

I heard from my friend Hans in Sweden who's now 85. I had written him to confirm the accuracy of the following as it applies at the Clear Spring School.

In the early days of educational sloyd, the progression of pedagogy as outlined in its principles "from easy to more difficult, from known to unknown, from simple to complex" was arranged through the gradual introduction of various tools, gradual increase in complexity of procedures with those tools and increasing difficulty and complexity of projects. The increasing difficulty of projects shown to the students as models was simply the means through which to introduce increasingly complex and difficult processes in tool use.
At the Clear Spring School models of projects for students to make are of great value. What the kids see, they emulate, whether it's something I've made as an example or something another child has made. The point is that models turn abstract thought into concrete expression The models became the focal point of attention and the organizing principle in the curriculum that was shared throughout the world including the US. Critics both in Sweden and around the world claimed that adhering to  a set of models ignored the child’s need for creative expression. But for Otto Salomon, the reason for the projects being presented in a certain order was to present increasing operational challenges in the use of various tools, that then, when realized, gave the child creative capacity, leading to the ability to design and create objects from one’s own imagination.
Make, fix and create...

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