Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Future Belongs To The Tool User

I've written before about our two-level sand pit with the cast iron hand water pump installed at the top, a wonderful place to play with both sand and water, and an object lesson in erosion. Before the summer session started, it was the responsibility of the parents in our 5's program to give up a couple of hours on a Saturday to help spruce up the place. The lower level of our sand pit had been overflowing for some time, while the cistern below the water pump in the upper level was almost entirely exposed. We were faced with the choice of purchasing more sand or hauling sand from the bottom back up to the top. Since cooperatives are notoriously short on money and long on labor, we elected to haul.

In hindsight, we probably should have sent a couple people home for their wheelbarrows, but we settled on using a wagon for the task, which is really a poor substitute. The truth is that we find ourselves using wagons instead of wheelbarrows several times a year, so after watching those poor parents work so hard and so long to move so much sand uphill, knowing all the while that it was destined to come back down, I made a point of acquiring an actual wheelbarrow for the school.

In the meantime, between adult projects, the kids get to use it for their own projects.

As with any new tool we introduce to the kids, we're now witnessing a lot of clumsy first attempts involving challenges with steering, frequent dumping of the entire load, and experiments with weight distribution and navigating a less than ideal terrain. No one is "helping" the kids. No one is "teaching" the kids. No one is "instructing" or "coaching" or doing anything other than pointing out potential safety matters, yet the kids are learning how to use the wheelbarrow. It's what humans do.

Humans are driven to use tools to imprint their vision on the world. Almost everything we make or do involves, at some level, a tool, the mastery of which requires practice. In preschool, we need ample opportunities to sort of mess around with a wide variety of tools like wire, scissors, hole punches, hammers, paint brushes, saws, glue guns, pencils, screwdrivers, knives, and paper clips. We need to get our hands on brooms, clothes pins, drills, shovels, rulers, pulleys, trowels, staplers, rakes, and wheelbarrows. As humans we have being alone and we have talking face-to-face; for everything else we use tools. And with every tool we learn to use, a new part of the world opens to us.

The future belongs to the tool user. The more tools we can use, the better that future will be.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I always love reading your perspective.