Sunday, April 05, 2009

From Pestalozzi to Froebel

You can see Pestalozzi's principles illuminated in Froebel's method. Froebel, in the process of "Inventing Kindergarten," developed "gifts", educational objects that grew in complexity from the simple colored balls on strings to his 19th gift, "sticks and peas" from which Buckminster Fuller discovered the geodesic dome. His last gift, the 20th was modeling clay. Associated with each gift were "occupations," actions that might be done with each to express learning. The belief was that learning and expressing both in the concrete and abstract were essential to development, and that concrete expression was the foundation for the abstract. If you want to know what abstract expression means, think of a standardized test. If you want to know what concrete expression means, think of something you might actually make or do. If you note that the outcome of our present system of education is complaisant consumerism, you can rest assured that the outcome of progressive education is active citizenship... something too scary for those with authoritarian ambitions to contemplate, which may explain why Freobel's schools were shut down by the Kaiser of Germany.

If you understand the relationship between Pestalozzi, Froebel and Salomon, you begin to come to a greater understanding of Sloyd. When Uno Cygnaeus was given authority by the Russian Czar to establish the Finnish Folk Schools, he was inspired by Froebel's Kindergarten movement and realized that crafts were the perfect means through which to extend Pestalozzi's Anschauung and Froebel's "self activity" throughout the school, and well beyond the Kindergarten years. Salomon realized the importance of Cygnaeus discovery and developed his teacher training school at Nääs to spread the gospel of progressive education.

The photo above is from Edna Anne Rich's 1905 book Paper Sloyd showing kids just beyond the Kindergarten age, preparing for woodworking Sloyd through work with paper. On the shelves and bulletin board you see finished paper models and on the blackboard, the design of the object being made. Edna Anne Rich was a graduate of Gustaf Larsson's School in Boston and Otto Salomon's School at Nääs. As a point that might interest you, my 3rd and 4th grade students at Clear Spring School love paper sloyd.

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