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A sophisticated approach to learning

by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D.



the 1980s in Santa Fe New Mexico I had started to work on the assembly of waste products, containers for household items such as cereal, toothpaste and the like and painting them. This was, in its way, my first introduction to actual practice with an approach others had experimented with a half century or more earlier. I had done thirty or forty of these and they were distributed through out the house at the time the 6 and 7 year-old daughters of a friend , Richard Marquez, visited. They had been too shy to speak to me about what these objects were. Besides, without an explanation from me they instinctively knew what they were for as their father reported a month or so later that they were now making some themselves. I was greatly encouraged by that report for it told me several things. First among them was that children do not require wordy explanations for strange events, but they also should not be denied

them, nor do they have a need to verbalize the experiece to themselves or to others. ...they do it. that is they have the experience. and in this doing they understand. Now comes a thought that many may find provocative.If the untrained child can sense a comprehensible order in a made thing, doesnt it seem reasonable to suppose that the order the child senses had been intentionally placed there, or an alternative being that the childs mental operations were simply those native to him. Presented with chaos the mind strives to establish order. If the order that he creates happens not to be the one intended by some other remote author, so be it, some order has been established. In the working of these puzzles the child is frequently confronted with a solution he dislikes and so he discards it. This is repeated time after time and it is this practice in trying out solutions that the analytical abilities are developed as well as the result of being unwilling to be defeated by failure.

. Thirty years later this is how that idea evolved.

I hear that the recent advice coming out of The Torrance Center at The University of Georgia has been that the creative child should learn how to be more discrete, however, since such advice would surely be a return to the period when it was the rule children should be seen but not heard, a rule which I reject most heatedly.I would rather propose that the authoritative adult learn how to listen properly to the evidences spoken by the child who lacks the sophisticated adult vocabulary but whose dramatic physical and vocal expresions are deemed not apropriate in a civil society althoug they work well on stage. A fine line must be drawn One might suppose that this advice to be more discrete was offered as one device to protect the emerging mind from abusive retaliation and corrective control, however, acturally what is describd is a situation where the child may be in a place between a rock and a hard place. Either way he looses. If he gives up exploring his perceptions he looses. If he accepts as legitimate the views of authorities, because they are authorities, he looses If he learn what game it is being played with his mind and keeps his vision, but keeps it private, he looses, for one of the most helpful proceedures in the learning process is to check out ones perceptions with others, preferably peers, for if there is disagreement, which is most probable, it is, at least not accompanied by implied threat. It is this particular social dynamic which argues in favor of understanding that creative thinking is essentially a private affair and not as some at Harvard have argued a coalecence of agreement amongst colleagues. If Thor Heyedal had acceded to the views of others he would not have achieved thhe knowledge that one can cross the Atlantic from Africa on a bamboo raft. The conventional mind has the comfort and assurance of what it knows to be true. The creative mind is still working out a truth yet

to be discovered. The conventional mind is appalauded and rewarded. the creative one, the one really doing the work, is reviled, ridiculed and is worn out trying to communicate with those incapable,at keast for the moment, of understanding. What these puzzels have that make them far superior to the conventional puzzel with its presented image of how the finished product should look they lack the initiative detroying contoured puzzle shapes which seriously inhibit alternative decisions. The conventional puzzel enforces the order that the player will do what he is told to do, The first two puzzel sets illustrated below will challenge the courageous player to arrive at an image he does not, at this moment,know what it is. Intensive trial and error may solve the problem. If you want to try it out, enlarge, print out, separate pieces and start reassembling.

An important added benefit to the use of these puzzles in the class room is to be found in the simple fact that the type of mental work required to learn the facts of mathematics, spelling, science is a different form of mental work from the process of discovery where in groping in the dark all ones senses must be alert. For this reason alone the puzzles become an important asset as a relief from the usual algorithmic school disciplines which require the pupil, to learn, usually, by rote, a specific amount by a specific time. It is for this reason these puzzles have significant therapeutic value, BUT BEYOND THAT, these puzzles exercise that part of the mind which analyses relationships from among the pool of the unknown to bring IT into reality....and that is the major evidence for there being creative thinking pupil the final product as it was designed by the artist. All things considered it is not an extravagant claim for the benefits derived from involvement with these puzzles that they assist the development of self confidence, eliminate the fear of making an error, promote the willingness to experiment all three of which benefits are therapeutic in nature. It should be noted that therapy is not only for the ill. We all get damaged as we go along. School systems are urged, if they already have contracted to allow electronic experts to determine the nature of the professional material teachers are allowed to read are strongly urged to review that policy and to amend it as it will be clear to any thoughtful observer that only the teacher in the classroom is qualified to make judgments as to what is professionally required and what is not.

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