Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Number 5

Yesterday I gathered and sanded the parts for Froebel's gift number 5. This is likely the set of blocks that inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's career as an architect. You can build amazing structures with this set of blocks and its easier than you might think to put away at the end of your play.

The blocks fit neatly within the wooden box. Stack the blocks to form a cube, slide the box over the top, and all the blocks off the table onto the lid. Use the lid to hold the blocks in the cube,  then turn the box over and slide the lid in place.

It is not real easy for small children with small hands to do, but then in the early days, parents and teachers were just as concerned with children developing manual dexterity as they were with the input of information. Later in the development of Kindergarten, they decided that these small blocks were too difficult for the children to manage, and much larger blocks were introduced. Those larger blocks turned play with blocks into a social endeavor (a good thing),  as children built things together in groups, but still, the development of manual dexterity, and the need for it, will not go away. Think of the surgeons who may also have gained their skill and intelligence through the use of Froebel's blocks. Are sensitive and caring dexterity any less important today?

I believe that the truth was more likely that such small blocks were difficult for the adult teachers to manage. Froebel worked with small groups of children in a small school and Kindergarten was originally conceived as being a small group activity with close personal supervision. As Kindergartens became widely introduced, they had to compete on an equal economic footing with schools based on drill and recitation, in which it was relatively easy to demand all children do exactly the same thing at the same time, oppressive as that may be. So Kindergartens crowded as many as 50 or more students in a classroom, all doing the same thing at the same time. It must have been impossible to keep complicated sets of small blocks intact. If you can imagine 50 small children sliding all these blocks off the table and onto the box lids at the same time, you can visualize catastrophe. I suspect that there were times when the teacher was left in the classroom long hours just putting blocks back in their appropriate boxes.

In any case, to make Gift number 5 for your child or grandchild, might lead to something more than you might expect... Skill in your own hands, dexterity and intelligence in theirs.

Here is a short list of gifts that give.

Tools, sets of blocks, gift certificates to craft lessons and cooking classes, how-to books (and the encouragement to do what is offered inside,) lessons for your son, daughter, or grandchildren in your own wood shop.

Today at the Clear Spring School, my primary students finished their puppets.

We have 23 making days before the Christmas holiday.

Make, fix and create...

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