Friday, December 26, 2014

the gap

9th gift. Rings and half rings for creating figures.
Yesterday I mentioned a book I'm reading, Primary Handworks, by Ella Dobbs. Like all of the authors of the books dedicated to manual arts training, Ella Dobbs is dead.  My wife wonders how I can read so many old books by dead authors. Perhaps a few more living ones will come in time. The subject of manual arts in school has died a thousand deaths, but may be on the uptick, and with some advocacy, may come back. We do know, after all, that we learn best and to greatest lasting effect when our hands are deeply entwined in the process and anyone willing to observe his or her own mind and hands at work will discover the same thing.

Ella Dobbs' papers are stored in an archive at the University of Missouri where she had become a professor emeritus in "applied arts," in her later years.
"Early in her university career Dobbs' basic goals were (1) the greater use of activities in the primary school, (2) to close the gap between kindergarten and primary school, and (3) the cultivation of a professional attitude among women teachers. In 1915 Dobbs was a key person in the founding of the National Council of Primary Education, an organization with educational goals similar to her own."
So what was the gap between kindergarten and primary school that Dobbs hoped to close?

Prior to the invention of Kindergarten, schools were dismal places, devoid of color, and devoid of activity. Children were to sit confined to their desks and learn reading through recitation and lecture, just as they are in some schools today. Kindergarten brought a revolution of thought. The following is from Miss Vandewalker, 1876:
The primary teacher who visited a kindergarten could not fail to be impressed by the kindergartner's attitude toward her children -- by her cooperation with them in the spirit of comradeship, and by her sympathetic insight into their interests and needs. She was impressed no less by the children's attitude toward their work, by the spontaneity of their interests, and by their delight in the use of the bright-colored material. The games were a revelation to her, since they showed that there could be freedom without disorder the interest which the children took in the kindergarten songs made here own drill on scales and intervals seem little better than drudgery; and the attractiveness of the kindergarten room gave her helpful suggestions concerning the value of beauty as a factor in education. In short, recognizing that there was possible an order of things very different from that to which she was accustomed, she determined to profit by the lesson. If kindergarten procedure could be made so interesting, why not school procedure as well?
Do you know what to do with a stick? Froebel's students did. Four of Froebel's gifts made use of sticks to stimulate creativity, imagination, understanding of form and numbers. The 8th gift consisted of sticks that were used to form shapes. The 15th gift consisted of similar sticks used to interlace forms. The 16th gift consisted of similar sticks that were jointed at the ends to that they could be manipulated in a variety of shapes, and the 19th gift, Sticks and Peas, used toothpicks and softened peas in a building process to create geometric and structural forms. It was play with sticks and peas that led Buckminster Fuller into the invention of the geodesic dome.

Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment