Friday, August 19, 2011

unfolding part two

We are in Madison, Wisconsin and have helped our daughter get situated in her first apartment. I have been away teaching and traveling for nearly two weeks now, and I'm looking forward to getting back to school and my own woodshop.

Madison is a wonderful town. The campus is situated on an isthmus between two lakes. The land is level (compared to the Ozarks) and near perfect for biking. We were very pleased that my daughter was given a research assistantship to cover most of her costs.

Most of education is backward in that learning should progress from the concrete to the abstract (a principle of educational sloyd), not the other way around, and we would have students with far greater educational enthusiasm if universities did more early on to put feet on the ground and hands in the field for learning. It seems that when students finally reach graduate school and have dispensed with the abstract basic theoretical courses, they really begin to do the fun stuff, field work and research. A particularly odd thing is that practice teaching takes place after students have supposedly learned theory, rather than in the beginning when the practice would make the theories relevant to them.

Lucy got her interest in groundwater, pollution detection, clean water advocacy and soil science when she was in 7th grade and did an actual field study of springs as a science fair project, partially replicating a study I had been involved in nearly 25 years before.

Put feet on the ground, hands in the field, concerned with real community environmental situations and you begin to see unfolding of character and intelligence. Lucy's seventh grade science fair project led to her presenting her results to community leaders and hydrologists from the University of Arkansas, so you can see that she is well prepared for confident graduate school work at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Naturally, my wife and I are very proud of her accomplishments and the young scholar/scientist she has become. But the point of this post is not to brag but to illustrate the idea of unfolding. It doesn't happen at once. Unlike the wings of butterflies which unfold as an amazing matter of course, the full unfolding of human beings doesn't happen without help, without encouragement, and without support.

For all children and at all ages engagement in the real world of hands-on science should happen ASAP.

Make, fix and create...

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