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Hands: For Parents and Teachers

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Hands-BannerTwo things would be desirable to go with this unit: teaching children new creative skills (art forms they have not tried before), and a service project to culminate the unit. See what projects the service committee has currently, and choose what you want to do to symbolize the “helping hand” that stretches out over space. For the creative skills, there are two suggestions that might prove helpful:

1. Printing for Fun, by Koshi Ota (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1960; $3.95), presents many approaches to art, some of which, it is fairly certain, the children will not have tried. Let them examine the variety and choose something that is new to them.

2. An ancient art form, requiring real hand skill, is Japanese paper folding. From Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, Vermont you can get Origami paper, 48 sheets to a packet, 3 packets for $1.00. You can also buy from them Sakade’s Origami: Japanese PaperFolding. Start with Book 1, at $1.00. If the children become very interested, buy Books 2 and 3 at the same price each. This involves not only skill in working with one’s hands, but skill in following directions. The ear, the eye, the mind, the hand work together.

Chapter 1

Basic concept to be developed. The paws of the animal ire used for tools, and with these he can do many things, but he can do only those things for which his hands are adapted. Man can do more, because he can pick up and lay down many tools.

Class session. Discuss the comparison of animal paws and human hands; differences do not mean that one is better in all ways than the other. Be sure the children feel the power and strength of animal paws for the work they are intended to do. The children may be interested in discussing things (in addition to the hand about which we are talking) that an ape can do in comparison with a child. Although it is Out of print, you might be able to get the book that reports this study from the library: The Ape and the Child (New York: McGraw 1933), by Winthrop and Luella Kellogg A more popular account of an attempt to “humanize” an ape is Kathy Hayes’ The Ape in Our House (New York: Harper, 1951). Both of these books make clear the importance of communication in development.

If possible, you might take the class out to find squirrels and feed them. Having something special to watch for makes observa‑ more precise. If such a trip is made, provide’ an opportunity when you return to the class for drawing pictures of what was seen.

Chapter 2

Basic concept to be developed. The basic concept of this lesson is the intricacy of the structure of the human hand and the multi‑ of skills which our hands possess. If you plan to have a service project that will run through the whole unit, the last paragraph in the lesson will serve as a springboard for introducing the project.

Class session. Any good encyclopedia will have pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and joints. One particularly fine book with detailed pictures (including the structure of the whole body) is Mitchell Wilson, The Human Body (New York: Golden Press, 1959). This has fine, clear, accurate pictures and contains a good deal of information that will be useful in case discussion of the structure of the human hand leads on to a discussion of other parts of the body.

Take plenty of time as you go through the session to move the fingers — see how many different positions you can put the hand in — and to discuss at length the things we can do with our fingers, and then with our fingers and the help of the rest of the hand. In a Portland, Oregon, school one of the children made a set of various kinds of hinges and brought them into class so that the others could see the “hinge” action of many muscles. The flexibility of the thumb and wrist in comparison with the fingers is important, because these are not “hinge joints.”

The more imaginative children should respond to the suggestion of writing “advertisements” about the “invention of the hand.” This would make possible the drawing of various types of posters for the advantages and skills to be derived therefrom and in order to make the children’s thinking more concrete.

Chapter 3

Basic concept to be developed. Although each human being is different in appearance from others, the common characteristic of the opposable thumb is one of man’s greatest assets. Help the children to comprehend how upright posture, freeing the front paws so they could develop into hands, and hands with the freely moving thumb have been so important in the development of man. Help them to comprehend also that we learn to use our hands, a learning which never really stops as long as there are new skills we would like to have.

Class session. Take time to do the experiment where the children put their hands in the door frame and take turns guessing whose hand it is. Mrs. McMahon in the Portland, Oregon, school had pictures taken of the hands of each child in the class; this created real interest. It is also possible to make plaster casts of the hand. Perhaps some of the children did this in nursery or kindergarten and might be able to bring in pictures or casts of their hands as they were when they were smaller.

Discuss the differences in hands resulting from the kind of work those hands do. Help the children to see that all kinds of work have equal value in our community, and be alert for any disparaging remarks about “work-stained” hands. Again, emphasize the many differences, but remember they are interesting because they are different, none being better or worse than the other.

This lesson is one where, surely, you will want to have the children make with their hands “the pictures they see in their minds.” Make clear the very real difference this has made to man in his development and in his ability to communicate.

Chapter 4

Basic concept to be developed. Intricate and wonderful though the hand is, it cannot function without the mind. The hand and mind of man working together are basic to development.

Class session. If you want some particularly appropriate material for the worship service, get Hans Baumann, The Caves of the Great Hunters (New York: Pantheon, 1954), from the library. Pages 103 to 112, either read or retold, would make a beautiful worship service focal point, or could be used as a story to supplement the material in the lesson.

Stress the learning of new things; refer to the art experiences of last week which were leading up to this theme. Talk also about tools as extensions of the hand and strengtheners of the hand. The children will think of many things to talk about here.

It is worth spending considerable time on the mirror-drawing project, which the children (and adults) find fascinating. This experience makes it possible to watch in a relatively short time the actual learning of a new eye-hand coordination, a new skill. Talk about individual differences and about how some people do different things well, so that the mirror drawing does not become a contest to see who can do it most quickly. The real point of it is to think, while doing it, of how it feels to be learning something new, and then to notice once it is mastered how simple the skill seems that one struggled so hard to acquire. If an adult will also try it, it will encourage the children to see that they can learn many things as quickly as adults. One of the reasons adults have so many more skills is that they have had more time to acquire them; it does not necessarily follow that they learn them more quickly. Actually, they learn some — such as various sports — more slowly.

The teacher will want to have collected pictures of hands herself so that there is a wide variety to choose from. Almost any picture of people has hands doing something; they are not hard to find, but the teacher may have more imagination and experience for collecting pictures that will give the children a lot to talk about.

Chapter 5

Basic concept to be developed. Appreciation of what others do for us with their hands. Do not sentimentalize, but get the children to recognize these things. This is a natural introduction to the concept of what our hands do for others. An important aspect of this lesson is also the idea of many skills which hands can have, helping children to understand that all are necessary skills, and that one is no less necessary, and no less a skill than another. An appreciation of the skilled worker’s hands is much needed by many children in our culture which overvalues the white collar and professional worker.

Class session. This session is largely discussion, and the making of the poster. Also the use of hands to express an idea that the child has had. (See Things to Do in the session.) This might be a time to have some people with skills visit the class. A father who is a craftsman, a mother who has ceramics or jewelry making as a hobby (or someone from outside the class circle if necessary). Also some parent, or person from the church, who is a skilled musician may be willing to play for the children and let them watch his hands. Perhaps you can have both a violinist and a pianist, since they use their hands in quite different ways in playing their instruments. Be sure that you include, if possible, both skilled workers and artists.

Chapter 6

Basic concept to be developed. Hands used in varying positions and circumstances as symbols which carry meaning to those who see them.

Class session. Before going into the more abstract subject of the prehistoric cave painted hands and the hands of prayer and brotherhood, it might be well to introduce the whole subject through a discussion of hands that tell us things. The uplifted hand and arm of the “buddy system” used by scouts and in many Y.M.C.A.’s and camps could be cited. The hands of the traffic officer are used to tell us what to do. There is also the beckoning hand, which can tell us something without words. The children will think of many more.

Having talked of the ability of hands to “say things,” it will not be so difficult to get into the abstractions of the lesson. When you talk about “hands in the attitude of prayer,” you may want pictures on hand to use if your church is one where this position is not used. Bring in also the idea of the uplifted hands and arms of the Indian praying to the Great Spirit, and the Moslem who kneels on the ground facing Mecca. Different people have different ways of expressing a “prayerful attitude.”

The clasped hands of brotherhood are important both as a symbol and as an ideal, and the idea is a basic one to religious experience. Help the children think through the implications of this, and if you have already started a service project relate the concept to it. Or, if you have not started a service project, you may want to do so now. Try to get the children to sense the idea of service, and be watchful that they are not developing a “Lady Bountiful” attitude. If they have this latter attitude, you may want to introduce the story “Old Clothes,” from Tensions Our Children Live With (Boston: Beacon, 1959), and use the story as a basis for discussion.