Sunday, January 12, 2014


The following is from The normal child and primary education by Arnold Gesell and Beatrice Chandler Gesell, 1912 and from a chapter called "Handwork."
In school work the children need evidences of fruitful effort. They must struggle some time before they can feel their progress in reading and writing, but in handwork they can fairly possess success. They feel the uplift of immediate achievement, of personal power. Originality of expression is the aim of handwork, but originality is not ready-made. It is the result of experience and an accompanying increase of technique. There should be as definite a relation between the demand and supply of technique in handwork as there is between the demand and supply of any commodity. The demand for technique should grow out of the use of a variety of suggestive material. Material which suggests or hints a process will make a demand upon originality and call for technique. Handwork may not be judged by the technical results obtained, but by the knowledge the child has gained of the uses and the possibilities of material.

Handwork belongs to the realm of art. It is intimate and personal in character and is a question of individual adjustment. It demands a creative atmosphere and does not thrive under the strict silence of the ordinary school period. Joyous human relations must surround the work done with the hands. The children should be allowed and encouraged to share their work with one another; to compare, discuss, and lend a hand. It is the child who is permitted to whirl the finished article in the air and invite admiration of it who will feel the glow of creativity. The child who follows the solemn dictation of his teacher and then silently puts his work away has no consciousness of victory. He will never know the joy of the true craftsman. If some freedom is allowed during this period, many boys and girls will receive the first commendation of their playmates through a bit of skillful handwork. This glow of success will be a revelation. This concrete evidence of power will awaken new energy which will flow over into other lines of effort.

What is the moral reaction from work with things? The child's ideas, thoughts, become tangibly visible. Suppose all thought took visible form, would it not startle some of us to look up and see the distorted figure of our habitual thoughts? Handwork must be true and clean to be worth while. A lie in the concrete cannot be hidden; it carries its results with it. The child who works with his hands must think, deliberate, and stand by his conclusions. Exclusively intellectual effort is subjective and incomplete, and may become selfish in its motive, but work with the hands is altruistic, objective, and humanizing.

Do not give the children a lot of characterless objects to make. The standard of handwork should be use or beauty, or both. Keep the work close to the lives of the little people. Let them make wagons, jumping jacks, paper dolls, boats, and engines. Such effort will do more to establish honest regard for property than all the sermons you can deliver. Possessions, accompanied by a sense of the labor involved in the making, will open a new page of ethics to the small boy or girl. The child who makes coat hangers, tags, holders for rubbers, pencil boxes, etc. is protecting his neighbor's property as well as his own. He is learning self-respect and independence by supplying his own wants by the work of his hands.
This is the week we will learn the decision from the administrative law judge on the SWEPCO power line proposal that would needlessly and recklessly damage our landscape, our ecology and cultural heritage. Her decision must be announced on or before January 17. We know that much of the nation is out of touch and careless about such things as beauty, and the environment, so in this case, it could go either way. The commission can choose to ignore state law and allow the power line to proceed, or it can stand up for the citizens in small local communities and stop it in its tracks. Our fingers are crossed.

This is also the week that Clear Spring students will return to the wood shop after the extended holiday break resulting from the worst bout of snow and cold in recent memory in the Ozarks. I plan to launch my high school students into box making and my upper elementary school students into making Froebel's Gift number 3 and exploring the vocabulary of the wood shop.

Make, fix and create... and teach others to do the same

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