Monday, May 28, 2007

As I've mentioned before, Otto Salomon proposed Educational Sloyd as an essential part of general education rather than as a form of vocational training. My visit to Nääs provided insight into the broad scope of Salomon's theories. Daily lectures at Nääs were only rarely about woodworking. They covered the educational theories of Rousseau, Commenius, Pestalozzi and Froebel, providing students with a deep understanding of general education as a foundation for using woodworking as a classroom resource.

Rather than training craftsmen to teach, the curriculum at Nääs was designed to enable trained teachers to teach woodworking. Salomon believed that the same teachers that taught reading and math should also teach woodworking, thereby breaking down the conventional barriers between academic subjects and their practical applications.

One of the most important things I discovered during my visit to Nääs was the deep connection between Educational Sloyd and the educational theories of Freidrich Froebel.

"The one universal law upon which Froebel based all of his educational principles was unity or inner connection. The interconnection of all things was the governing force in Froebel's philosophy and pedagogy and the broad foundation for all of his developmental concepts." (Brosterman, Norman: Inventing Kindergarten)

You may hear this principle echoed in the text of the original proposal for the Wisdom of the Hands Program at Clear Spring School: "...the students will learn the connections of hands to head to heart. They will come to know themselves as they learn to create, to have patience, to know the benchmark of quality work, to see a thing through to the end and, ultimately, to discover the connectedness of all things."

The juxtaposition of these two quotes may help to explain why I have felt such an immediate connection with Educational Sloyd and why I felt compelled to travel to Sweden and visit Nääs.

The photo above is of a lecture in the early years of Nääs. Observing the class is Otto Salomon. Note the number of women in the classroom. Elevating the role of women as professional educators is another part of the legacy of Freidrich Froebel. Among these women was Ednah Anne Rich, a graduate of Nääs who brought Sloyd education to California in the US around 1900 and who authored the book Paper Sloyd in 1905.

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