A Ninth Impression of Kamepao, 8/04/99
Today between 15-19 children came. The main project for the day was to build the cardboard shelter. Although all of them couldn't participate in the entire process, some children did. Yesterday there was a discussion about the method of attachment of the boxes. Several issues are involved: a strong attachment, quick drying time, ease for children to assemble or at least help, ease for anyone other than the Kamepao Project Team to assemble. The task of meeting all of these needs is one that the Kamepao Project Team is still working on.
Although today's attachment process, of glue and cable ties, is strong and satisfies the requirement for drying time, the ease in assembly is still being considered. This made it such that the Kamepao Project Team had to take the lead in assembling with some assistance by the children.
One of the main ideologies that seems prominent for Kamepao is that children make things themselves. Kamepao is for children and about children and children are to have a say in everything. Although this is a productive way of educating and caring for children, children can't do everything themselves. Kamepao is the conception of adults. Children, I don't think, could come up with and execute Kamepao by themselves. Nor do they have to.
Kamepao, as executed by the Kamepao Project Team, does fulfill its motivation of a hands on approach for children. All of the projects that the children execute are designed with the goal of allowing them to accomplish something they may have not thought possible to do themselves. But there are several kinds of projects for the kids.
1. At one extreme there are the projects that kids come up with themselves. These may come out of free play where there is no guidance or instruction. With this type of project a child could either do the entire project him or herself, or at a certain point he or she could ask an adult for assistance. In this case the conception is all the child's and the adult may only help in suggesting tools or materials to use.
2. At the other extreme are the projects that the Kamepao Project Team makes for the children, like the Shellters, the Turtlecar, etc. The children don't play a role in designing or constructing these.
3. A third, middleground project type would be one that the Kamepao Project Team conceives for the children to execute, like the chairs, finger pianos, and airplanes. Adults designed these projects with completion in mind, but also with freedom for decision making from the children. For example, in all cases the chairs are chairs, finger pianos finger pianos, and airplanes airplanes. Yet each has its distinctive characteristics, in the same way that each child is a child but is uniquely different. Positioning and length of pieces, colors, heights and angles can be chosen by children. But if the objective is to make a chair, the children are not encouraged to make a clump of stuck together wood. The children understand the goal and are willing to work towards it, with satisfaction as the goal. If the guidance of the goal were eased and a child made a clump of stuck together wood, certainly the results would be interesting. But if every project were allowed to go the same way, we would either end up with a child who doesn't attain the satisfaction of completion, or a child who has and is pursuing an advanced sense of art making who can find satisfaction in his or her own completion based on an inner discipline. Although this latter case is desirable, a child showing this face may be uncommon.
By making this separation of methods of project conception, I don't mean make a hierarchy. All of them have benefits for children, and all of them are for children. For the children to do something completely alone is for them to explore their own creativity. For the children to conceive something alone, then ask for help in its construction is an exploration of creativity as well as the satisfaction of completion. A project that an adult conceives that children can complete with little assistance is an exploration of accomplishing a task that contains within it the independence of creativity and choice making. A project that adults conceive of and execute independently of children but for the purposes of children may not be one that begins with childrens' creativity, nor one that gives children the sense of satisfaction in completion, but it still allows for both. Children cannot make everything themselves. A child, as architect, may be able to design an interesting building, but he or she will not be able to execute its structure or determine the most structural material, much less work through all of the building permits, hiring of employees, etc.. What they can make they should make. But what they can't make, if it is made for them, can be advantageous.
Like the Turtlecar and the wooden Shellters, kids did not take part in their design or in their construction. Yet this doesn't prevent them from enjoying them. If children know that something is theirs, no matter who it was made by, they will be glad to take it over. At the same time, they will be willing to take care of it. In the first report I mentioned the signboard that said something to the effect of, "Use Kamepao wisely" posted on last year's cardboard Shellter. The cardboard Shellter is the one in which is the most manipulated by the children since they can freely alter it. But this alteration takes place after it is made.
Yesterday's discussion centered around the difficulty in the attachment method of today's Shellter and how it would not necessarily be conducive to construction by the children. This led to a discussion of whether the children should take the materials themselves and construct them in anyway, possibly altering the shape from the design and the model. To me, to have the project exchange hands at this point would constitute a premature shift in educational methodology. To take a project designed under one methodology and then submit it to antoher methodology would then wipe out the benefits of each. In this instance, the cardboard shelter was designed by the Kamepao Project Team for the children. Its assembly, at this point, is a bit complicated for them to execute on their own. If it were executed as planned by the Kamepao Team according to the design and model, then the benefits as a space for the free use of children would be received. But if it were handed over to the children to freely alter the design at this point, possibly turn what could be a chair into a pile of sticks, this space designed for their use would not be constructed, nor would there be the satisfaction of a successful completion of a project. If the task is too difficult, in this case, if their completed structure did not meet the quality of the model or their memory of the previous year's cardboard shelter, instead of satisfaction, they may feel frustration.
Although in this particular instance, I felt that the most benefits could be received if the Kamepao Project Team executed the assemblage of the cardboard Shellter according to plan, in another instance, originating from another educational methodology, I would feel differently. All of the above discussed methodologies have benefits for children. There are things that kids can make on their own, then things that they can make with guidance, and then things they cannot make yet. All of these set up a past, present, future scenario, where what is impossible today can be looked at in awe and enjoyed with the included impression that maybe it will be possible tomorrow.