Wednesday, December 10, 2014

effective exploration and use of form and material

I have been reading about the way in which Froebel's gift number 7 was introduced to students in the 1800s. Gift number 7 consisted of sets of flat tiles both square, and various triangles. The idea was to move from geometric solid shapes toward a material more akin to drawing. The number of pieces in each set would be overwhelming and chaotic if the full set was presented at the start. So students were first given 3 pieces, and then 7, and then larger sets with which to construct various forms. If they had been given the full set, and told to make something, where would they start?

The idea that learning should move from the simple to the complex, from the easy to more difficult, and from the concrete to the abstract. To simply put a huge set in the hands of kids would overwhelm their creativity, neglecting to provide a starting point for their creative process.

Yesterday at Clear Spring School, my first grade children made Christmas trees. They start with a board shared by two students. They take turns cutting from one corner all the way down through to the other. Then when the board is divided in two, the various layers of the tree are cut, leaving only 1 tiny end piece that goes to waste from the process. That the pieces come from a single piece gives a sense of the transformation available in a piece of wood, and without waste. If a child is given only 3 tiles from a larger set and is encouraged to find all possible shapes that might be derived from those 3 tiles before moving on, I believe you can see the thoroughness of that which takes place. When a child is given too much stuff, wastefulness and inattentiveness to both form and material are encouraged. Whereas, to make a tree from wood, with nothing wasted but the sawdust swept from the floor at the end of the lesson conveys a sense of completion and responsible use of resources.

Today I have the last week of my home school class.

Make, fix and create...

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