Ovide Decroly in his own words

“It is evident to those who understand the child of the elementary school that the only processes of acquisition, the only processes of assimilation that are in harmony with his abilities to think, are those that he experiences in close contact with the real, the actual.

Let the child prepare for life by living.

Organise the environment to afford adequate stimuli for the tendencies favourable to development.”  - Ovide Decroly

Isn’t that gorgeous?  ”Let the child prepare for life by living.”  Provide the child with real physical experience that allow him to explore his environment and his natural curiosity will teach him all he has to know.

“To educate in its fullest sense is to create conditions in which the child can live – and is led by these conditions led to live-as fully as possible through each succeeding stage of his development, meeting and solving in his own experience the problems of each stage as it comes, and so gaining the power to meet and to solve the problems that await him in further stages. Such conditions it is for a school to provide.” (Decroly cited by Badley, Dr. Ovide Decroly ed. Albert Decordier, Amicale Rijksbasisonderwijs, Ronse, Belgium)

The job therefore of a school and teachers is to provide the natural environment and activities that will encourage exploration and contribute to concrete learning.

“The essential defect of the elementary school curriculum to my thinking lies in this, it has been the work of men learned in their specialties, but too little concerned with child psychology.  And in every attempt that has been made with a view to bettering it the result has been the addition of new subject matter conceived in the same spirit.  Thus, nothing has been gained, rather the curriculum has become correspondingly overloaded and more indigestible.”  – Ovide Decroly

How true that is!  There has been a proliferation of subjects; maths, reading, writing, biology, physics, chemistry, geography, history, English language, English literature, economics …. I’m exhausted already.

Since leaving school there has only been one subject; a problem that needed a solution to be solved using any skills, resources or knowledge at my disposal and even better collaborating with others who had different skills, resources or knowledge.

“Ever since we have taken the trouble to study the child himself in order to uncover the true basis of a natural pedagogy, we have known that only bio-psychological interest can provoke and hold his attention, can direct and control his mental assimilation.  We have known, too, that the native interests of children in all countries lie outside of the school as it has been conceived by the exponents of a logical pedagogy.  We have known that the continuous action of a well-chosen environment can of itself kindle the activities appropriate to development and permit the child a true and entire realisation of his personality.

It is necessary then that the study of nature conceived in the active sense as a matter or practical experience and effect utilisation of the surroundings, should be the centre of a program of subject matter based on pedagogy.  As a result the well-considered teaching of natural sciences must be accorded a more important place in our programs, a place beside the mother tongue as the core of the curriculum.”

O. Decroly and R Buyse, les application Americaines de la psychologie a l’organization humaine et a l’education.

By the teaching of Natural Sciences I understand Decroly to mean that children’s learning should be routed in physical interaction, exploration and manipulation of their environment.  And as we say in the last article it has now been shown scientifically that he was right, gardening is good for our children.

“Schools which integrate gardens into the curriculum are developing children who are much more responsive to the challenges of adult life.”

Dr Simon Thornton Wood – Royal Horticultural Society

The simple truth is that the child is fascinated by nature and his relationship to nature and how nature supplies his needs and how he can nurture nature.  By bringing these into school children feel safe in the world because nature is their friend who can supply their needs for food, shelter, warmth growth and community.  And they learn good practical skills, patience, observation, natural science … etc … AMAZING!

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