This article from the New Yorker really resonates with me.
I’ve watched Boy Scouts — a few times even Cub Scouts — do really quite complicated tasks. Even at very young ages, they’ve successfully completed tasks that stymie adults. These have included launching rockets, building full scale rope bridges, and creating combat-ready remote-control fist-fighting robots.
Yet these same kids get treated like dangerous incompetents in a school environment — unable to handle tools sharper than a pencil or a pair of safety scissors — even up through seniors in high school.
I think this article points up our own terror as adults and as parents and teachers, rather than any lack of capability in our students. Even as young children, say 4 years old and up, we should be providing our students with real tools and real equipment to solve real-world problems.
One of my favorite pictures from the Reggio Emmilia schools that I saw at Constructing Modern Knowledge conference in 2008, was two small kids in the school kitchen helping to prepare lunch. One was maybe three, and cutting up the tomato with a knife longer than her arm. The other was a boy, maybe 5, shaking a pan over an open flame stove.
The ability to prepare and cook food has been part of the human heritage for about two million years. Maybe we should help our kids learn to claim that patrimony earlier — like, before preschool.