Friday, January 22, 2016

get messy.

You've probably noticed that I'm a woodworker and not a child psychologist. I suspect that I have more fun, than many developmental psychologists because I get to make real things from wood. I think it would be particularly distressing for developmental psychologists to watch education in America while having so little control of how things turn out. It appears that the last ones educational policy makers pay any attention to are those who've studied how children learn best, and what they need to grow and develop to be successful and caring adults. I, and many of the readers of this blog, have the capacity to take learning and education into our own hands while developmental psychologists are kept at arms length.

Unless you are one of the many who can't listen to my spiel on a daily basis (I repeat myself and offer no apology for it), you will know that I was discussing the relationship between the concrete and abstract, the necessity of concrete learning, and the developmental stages described and named by Piaget, one of the world's foremost and most widely accepted child development psychologists.

To make certain I was not going off the deep end in my discussion of Piaget, I consulted a friend and child development psychologist at Tufts University in Boston, David Henry Feldman. You may remember Dr. Feldman as the man who wrote the amazing essay, The Child as Craftsman. In particular, he has made a lifetime study of students who excel. This is Dr. Feldman's response:
Nice to hear from you, Doug! The short answer to your question is yes, you can use Piaget to make the argument for the hands. His theory proposes that the sensorimotor activity of the first year of life is the same process as is used in every area of thought for the entirety of life. The content changes but the process is the same. His approach is broader than the hands themselves, but they certainly would continue to be a significant part of thought development for the life span.

Hope all is well with you. –DHF
The point Dr. Feldman makes (and that I've made before) is that we never outgrow our need for engagement in concrete reality, and that Piaget provides a sound foundation for that belief. Even those students who reach the formal operational stage at a particularly early age (making it easy for those who want to cram knowledge into the brain through books and digital devices), still benefit from having concrete resources available for their examination of abstract reality. So while many educational policy makers would like to deliver education effortlessly to your seat or desk top, and thus achieve education on the cheap, we on the other hand, being messy human beings as we are, need a simple and more messy educational mechanism that allows us to do real things.  The arts, music, laboratory science, and yes... you've been waiting for it? Wood shop!

The box and x+/-2 block shown in the image above were sent yesterday to one of the winners from my box making contest.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

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