Autumn Sale of Superior Educational Equipment
To those of you who are fascinated by superior and amazing learning materials for our children, this is your season. Nature's harvest in the Autumn doesn't stop at pumpkins, apples and feijoas; educational equipment is also part of the harvest. As is usual with Nature's abundance and generosity, her harvest won't cost you anything more than the time it takes you to harvest it.
Just as they have done for thousands of years, children express their in-built, genetic patterns of 'being human' with these treasures. Not surprisingly, the patterns children express using multiple natural materials lay the platform for literacy and numeracy. The child's urge (humans urge) to sort, order, pattern, group, connect, classify, seriate..., these patterns of play are the physical prerequisites for the more abstract versions of the same skills that will come on stream later: (3X3) X (4+13). There are other bonuses when we use natural materials instead of bought plastic stuff. These natural items themselves are the epitome of the mathematical patterns nature employs in creation, affording our children the chance to 'down load' these patterns, as well as the subtleties of colour, texture, smell and sound. Much of this play and learning happens naturally, outside, as in days of old: in the sandpit with the shells, under the trees with the acorns, in the hedge with the leaves.... Inside is a second best as far as most children are concerned, but objects of beauty inside add harmony and beauty - think of photos in the House and Garden magazine.
Beautiful Containers for Beautiful Materials
Even though the equipment comes for free, there will be a cost - you will have to source some beautiful containers to store your treasure. Beautiful baskets and wooden bowls can be found for bargain prices at garage sales and opportunity shops. A wooden bowl that is stained is easily sanded then oiled back to its original glory. If you want sets of containers, Trade Aid is a good place to look, a place where you know your dollar is doing more good than you thought a dollar could do.
Baskets, Heuristic Play, Exclusion and Inclusion
I hadn't heard the term heuristic until about twelve years ago. I couldn't guess from the context what it meant, so instead of pretending I understood, I owned up; "What does that mean?" Turns out, the person using it wasn't too sure what it meant either, so I went home and looked it up.
Heuristic [Hyoo-ris-tic, or, often yoo-] Adjective
a: serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of further investigation
b: encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error - an heuristic teaching method
c. of, pertaining to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial and error methods.
When you look at the definition, most of our learning in life is heuristic. 'Heuristic' does not apply exclusively to the infant 'treasure baskets' people tend to be referring to when they use this term. I am not in favour of those of us in early childhood using the term 'heuristic' - except in assignments - because jargon is exclusive, it excludes those not in the know. Using the word heuristic in conversation with parents, or in learning stories that parents will read, leaves most parents either wondering what on earth are 'they' are talking about. The parents who want to understand what we are talking about will have to ask us point blank, "What does that mean?" At that point they can feel included.
Beauty and Education
Beauty needs to part of every child's education, and all of the great educators understood this, from Plato, through to Steiner, Montessori (oh those beautiful geometric shapes), Loris Malaguzzi... and You. Two quotes from Plato:
"The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful."
The mathematical patterns of this earth are stunningly beautiful. Nature is always works in patterns: from the pattern of an atom, of a molecule, of a cell, of a crystal, of a shell, of a walnut...
"The most effective kind of education is that a child should play among lovely things."
Still a believer in the printed word - does that make me a fossil?