Monday, May 09, 2005

Greene & Greene, Hands-On Learning, and Patterns from Nature

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." - Confucius

We just got back from a weekend in Quinault's Rain Forest, and patterns from nature and the education of Charles and Henry Greene were on our mind. The picture below is from the Greene and Greene's Gamble house and a pattern we found on a fallen tree.

Not surprisingly, nature one of the most common sources for creative ideas in art, invention, science, or writing. Some ideas are found by closer or unconventional inspection; while analogy is useful in other situations.

The Greene brothers were remarkable architects who helped give create the American Arts & Crafts movement in the early part of the 19th Century. Interestingly, the Greenes attended an innovative school that was built on the premise that "the well-educated man should work with his hands as well as his mind." At the Manual Training High School, operated by Washington University St. Louis, the hands-on learning was not seen to be vocational, but rather a way to instill the practical applications of principles and formulae that students were learning.

Hands-on learning is a way to test out or verify ideas, make predictions, play around with ideas (prototyping), and develop visual and spatial imagery. It's interesting that another hands-on educational theorist, Frederich Froebel, had Frank Lloyd Wright as a student. Wright would later recall Froebel blocks fondly as,"the smooth shapely maple blocks with which to build, the sense of which never afterwards leaves the fingers: so form became feeling."

Interior photographs of The Gamble House
Greene & Greene Virtual Archives: About The Greenes

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