Tuesday, January 14, 2014

putting your toys away...

Putting your toys away should be as easy and fun as getting them out in the first place, and I can imagine the challenge that Froebel felt with his first experimentation with blocks in the classroom. He was living in a wretched hut that had been a hen house, and his students playing with hand crafted blocks would spend hours in construction of castles and the like. "Time to put the blocks away, kids" would be the most dreaded call. The drawing above shows Froebel's 3rd gift and its contents.  To get the blocks out of the box, the student would turn the box upside down on the table top and slide the lid out of the way, allowing the blocks to fall slide onto the table top. When the box was carefully lifted away, a perfect cube would remain. The child would play with the blocks and when play was complete, she or he would arrange the blocks back into a cube. To put the blocks away, the child would cover the cube with the box and slide it off the kindergarten table onto the lid, then turn the box over and slide the lid in place. The same technique was used with the more complicated sets.

In the late 1800's and early 20th Century, Milton Bradley and a variety of other companies in the US and Europe supplied Froebel's gifts in machine crafted boxes. I am convinced that when Froebel proposed such gifts for the use in a teaching relationship between young mothers and their infants, the boxes and blocks were most likely not made with fancy machine tools, but rather by young fathers crafting educational materials for their own children by firelight. And so, the gifts may be serviceable in a number of directions, luring young fathers to make, luring young mothers to teach, and luring infants to explore their own creative capacities.

Nowadays, parents just occupy their kids on digital devices. They can be turned off, so I guess that's an advantage of sorts.

I showed my high school class Froebel's third gift, my latest box project. When my exchange student David began building with the blocks from inside, I asked, "Did you play with blocks as a child?" "No, just video games." He answered. And so it goes all over the world. Parents are convinced that by giving their children expensive technology instead of toys, they've delivered their best.

But there are things that children get from handling real things and our children are left short handed if they don't have the opportunity to learn from engagement in real materials in solid form.

I want to introduce my readers to Mag Ruffman, toolgirl.com. She offers some free instructional videos for woodworking with kids and may help parents to understand that they don't have to be expert woodworkers before introducing their own children to creative woodwork. We can all learn together in this creative process, and it truly is past time for us to take the education of our children into our own hands.  Mag works with Lowe's Canada to offer Family Fun Projects.

A gift need not be perfectly crafted to be useful or beautiful
Today in my wood shop, I'll be finishing photos for an article in Wood Magazine, and begin work on an article for American Woodworker. I also need to make boxes to fill holes in my inventory left by sales during the holiday season.

Make, fix and create... teach others to do likewise.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see you embrace Friedrich Froebel's educational philosophy in your woodworking classes. Making the Froebel Gifts and then playing with them are an education into themselves are very rewarding. I am a teacher specializing in Froebel education. I work with Scott Bultman of FroebelUSA and have my own experiences listed at www.facebook.com/froebeltoday. I would enjoy a conversation with you in the future. Keep up the nurturing work.