So how do we motivate the young to learn? One way is by giving them presents, ones they have to figure out how to use. A recent article in the African Globe tells of Ethiopian children who are starved of many things. And one of them is education and a sense of a larger world than their village.
What I get out of this experience is that children will cooperate to learn something they really want to know, and that for all their best learning, it takes all of them to help each other figure things out.
Cooperative learning activities should be made available.
- String figures
- Games of thought: go, wari, chess
- Simple musical instruments (keyboard especially)
Each activity should be introduced to the entire class by the teacher, or visiting expert, who can demonstrate what can be accomplished, with a special attention paid to the hand’s dance necessary. The children learn best by exploring with their hands
The strategy games are for learning to play and compete, helping each other learn to get better.
I feel that string figures are essential within the mix, but I don’t think the true worth of string figures is the complex beauty one can discover within them. I think it is the sheer playfulness of the activity which attracts young people, and their parents if truth were told. It is like magic.
I think it is also the ease it brings to social interaction. The first class of the day should serve as sort of a homeroom time when things are taken care of and everyone practices quietly with each other, games or string figures or origami. Some time should be set aside for music, learning to perform, and learning how to be an audience.
A quiet learning interaction should prevail, with quiet voices allowed.
There should also be group lessons, which are teacher driven, and students should be taught how to sit quietly and listen.
There should be deliberate practicing of how to discuss things while in a group.
There should be deliberate practicing of presenting reports to the group, in twos and threes in the beginning.
There should be string figure teams, each given different systems to learn (diamonds, ten men, Native American nets)
These teams should report periodically on their progress as a group to learn the system and drmonstrate what they mean.
The idea is to reinforce curiosity with the drive necessary to learn anything, and to remove the barrier of self doubt in the young learner’s mind.
A teacher should have this class for the entire time the students remain in the school. This continuity is crucial. A steady adult presence in the beginning will soon bring the hum of activity all teachers love to hear.
And the mastery of making complex string figures, forming origami figures, and developing strategies in games enables the students. It invests them with an ability to focus, to practice, to remember. The ability of the young human animal to learn is astounding. It is a crime to keep imaginations in lockstep.
My concentration would be on string figures in the beginning. The students can help each other, and practice together, while learning well the first figure of the diamond system. The most difficult part of string figures is learning the first figures, and there are only three of them. And fairly soon everyone will helping everyone else, often sharing performance shortcuts for making the various hand movements.
It is very hard indeed not to be able to explain concepts using visual and tactile string figures — despite each individual’s minute but substantive difference in mental wiring. Individual study within an established, open-ended framework — latticework — is a workable solution to the one-size-fits-all nature of universal education. Instead of slotting each square to the square hole and then worrying about the circles, establish a goal and let the students slot themselves accordingly.
That is the model of my string figure introduction to the school experience, say kindergarten or the first grade. The main objective in the beginning should be to have the children tackle a general problem that they all want to do, and that they will persist in working on until they succeed in their endeavors.
I have spoken before about the manner in which all human children learn, and that the intelligent help we as a nation could expect from all the young being well educated is crucial if this nation is to keep its place in the world.
And I believe that the problem of teaching all children worldwide is a problem that can be attacked successfully with a relatively small expenditure; especially when compared to the cost of the entire world’s ugly wars.
All children want to know.