Learning to see

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Category: Education
     
 

Presentation Description

The workshop with children as well as teachers are on learning to see. This may sound simple and silly. But I think what we loose with years of schooling is the ability to SEE. So teachers would be helped to regain their lost ability to see and children may not loose this ability as this would become an ongoing and a life long process in which they begin to notice various aspects of nature. In some sense this is to initiate a walking meditation. I believe that beauty, value and knowledge are the fundemental base of life. These are rooted in the biology of our being and that is what I would like to work on. The modern knowledge see all this in the realm of psychology and hence there are subjects like art, music, moral science etc. I am not telling these are not important but as long as we do not understand the biology of this what we harm the human being by psychological conditioning. What really should happen is the awakening of value, beauty and cognition rooted in our biology rather than psychological conditioning in which the words/ concepts precede the experience.

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L e a r n in g t o s e e:

L e a r n in g t o s e e With 6 th standard children from Sahyadri school.

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Learning to see’ is a workshop I was fortunate to conduct with about 40 6 th standard children from the Sahyadri school. Pune. Children blessed me with their innocence, love, curiosity and spontaneity that was still some what intact. I could see naming was slowly getting prominence than the seeing of the object. Once naming gets more important the cognitive processes related to senses die and thinking and reasoning takes over. As they get entrenched in the linguistic world the world of objects recede from their vision. They stop being present to the world around. From the realm of timelessness they also get caught up in the clutches of time. My exposure to the rural tribal non literate people have made me realize that people who are using senses to cognize the world are in the realm of timelessness as they are always in the present. Senses are our cognitive tools that not only connect us to the outer world but also awaken sensitivity, sense of beauty and intelligence. Reading and writing are not cognitive tools at all but somehow this not only gets prominence in our schooling system but also eliminate the true cognitive tools. The purpose of the workshop was to initiate ‘seeing’ in such a manner that the ability to see gets fully entrenched/ reinforced in children so that as they progress to higher classes the ability for observation is retained.

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For some strange reason schools tend to treat beauty and creativity as something that belongs to the art class and all the other subjects are devoid of beauty and creativity. Hence we have termed some professions as creative professions. I can’t understand why mathematics, physics or a biology class need not have creativity and beauty as the basis for learning. Beauty and creativity are the fundamental principle of being alive. These are rooted in our biology, the original stuff with which we are made. Eliminating senses and beauty from our educational process have killed true creativity as well as produce beauty disabled people. T he real learning disability is caused by this educational process. The learning disability that is now being spoken of is really our inability to adjust to the wrong educational process! Familiarity and boredom are infact two sides of the same coin and disuse of senses are the cause of both. Ability to see afresh can not make anything familiar.

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Observation drawing is an important activity to make children see things around them in detail. Each activity we did was to enhance their seeing of nature. Various aspects of nature became our theme and each day children went out and drew, felt, saw, painted, smelled, touched nature. We looked at the way creepers climbed, negative spaces in between the leaves, t he way light falls on the leaves, the movement due to wind, raindrops and the dew drops, patterns in nature, symmetry, geometry, texture, colour, smell of nature. We made several small booklets based on these themes.

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The senses speak to the understanding: ”Poor understanding, from us you took the pieces of evidence and with them you want to throw us down? This down throwing will be your fall.” Democritus

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It is only after you have come to know the surface of things that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible. Italo Calvino, in Mr Palomar (1983 )

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“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” ― Rumi

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Children were given only the basic six colours- black, white, red, blue, green and yellow and they were able to easily mix and create the matching colours. I had noticed This earlier while working with children from Aruvacode. I think children from the age of 9 or so develop this capacity or fine tune this capacity for solving problems bypassing logic and reason and hence are able to make accurate matching colours. At a teachers workshop in Hyderabad in 2004 I found most of the 70 teachers who took part in the workshop could not create the colours. Where as the non literate women who helped in the school and the drivers were able to mix and match. The so called educated used recollection or reasoning to solve this. But the people who are not formally educated didn’t have anything to recollect nor use reason to figure out how to make the colours. It looks like education destroys an important cognitive ability by never having opportunity for children to deal with the unknown as well as never having to learn by doing with out instruction.

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Also it looks like all knowledge is not out of trial and error but may be there is a way of knowing that is instantaneous like the way most things in nature knows. Children were getting an opportunity to figure out all by themselves and different set of cognitive conditions were thus created . They were dealing with something unknown and not having the rational mind developed yet they naturally had to use another process to solve this. Thus a different cognitive process was at work to solve this problem. Non literates or sense literates never having had to go through the cognitive rewiring set in by the schooling system could also solve the problem of making the colours easily. Three conditions were 1.children were autonomously dealing with the task, 2. they are doing something experientially and 3. they were in the realm of unknown.

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Converting the three dimensional object in to two dimension is an very important cognitive act. The abstraction that happens is quite remarkable and this is very difficult for the educated person to accomplish. It seems that children before they are caught by the rational framework is able to see with out the need for thought to interpret what they are seeing. They are able to just observe and draw. The educated goes through three steps. They see, think and draw and quite often they are not able to draw where as children are able to draw quite easily.

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Once a child learns the name for any object, perception moves from the right to the left side of the brain, that is from sense and experience related activity to language and thinking related activity.

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When thinking process, reasoning and takes over it aggressively subdues the sensory perception and experience.

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“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” -Walt Streig

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