Given that figuring out how to teach design to children is my job these days, it made sense for me to go into New York City today to see the Century of the Child exhibit at MoMA. Here I am, seated on a giant version of a child’s chair in the opening area of the gallery on the sixth floor. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in any of the gallery spaces, which was a huge disappointment. There are so many things that I would have liked to show my students and my colleagues — like the children in a classroom learning to draw, and the LEGO blocks, and the books to teach students about mechanical processes. My colleague MD would have loved, loved loved the books and tools for teaching weaving.
It turns out that there’s this whole, deep history abut teaching kids that I never knew before. This guy Knoebel in the late 1800s had a whole curriculum for young kids based around the concept of “gifts”, which consisted of ten “gifts” that kids could receive. Gifts 1-6 were solid objects that could be used to teach various skills and thought processes, from counting to writing. Gifts 7-10 began to move toward flat objects, to encourage the movement toward abstract thought. I want to find out more about this, and think about constructing a series of “gifts” in design for First through Eighth graders, to help students develop design processes around many different concepts ranging from graphic design to furniture design to more abstract systems thinking. Hmm.