Friday, October 13, 2006

Scissors, paper, string...the educational self-activities of Friedrich Froebel. It is interesting to me that when we have new students at Clear Spring, I can put paper and scissors in their hands, and they have very little idea what to do with them. I began using a paper folding technique with students as a means of developing symmetrical designs for woodworking projects. I was very surprised to learn that instructions had to begin with the most basic concepts. "Align the corners so that they match perfectly, then hold them very tightly together while you move your other hand, pulling the paper smoothly until a tight crease is formed. While still holding the corners tightly together, move your hand down the length of the paper to extend the crease." And of course these words are not enough. They need to see a demonstration of the hand motions and then fold paper in their own hands to really get it.

When I was a child, we cut out paper shapes with scissors, folded things, tied knots and made braided cords, did spool knitting and much more. These were the "educational self-activities" suggested by Kindergarten founder, Friedrich Froebel, and the kinds of activities on which a lifetime interest in learning can be built.

So where have these children been? You can watch the speed of their fingers on the keyboard, and you will know. Instead of folding paper, cutting with scissors, braiding and knots, their time is spent on computers.

It is interesting that the world now is full of expert computer users that didn't start their computer use until middle age. Yet, these same middle aged computer users have become insistent that their children need to be introduced to computers at the earliest possible age fearing that they will be left behind in the march of technology. I'm sorry to report that we have become a sorry nation of idiots. Let children play. Let's stop shoving them into the future. Let's savor the moment with folded paper and braided string. It will do us a world of good. The photo above is from Edna Anne Rich's 1910 book, Paper Sloyd.

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