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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Revised Furniture

Revised Furniture.

As a first step towards mental and spiritual liberty, I would suggest the remodelling of our school furniture, so that children might have more physical freedom. Towards this the kindergarten rooms now in most of our State schools have paved the way, inasmuch as they have accustomed us to movable furniture in the shape of tables and chairs. I would suggest that every room in every Infant School be furnished with small light tables and chairs. In rooms where it may be necessary to take some class work, these tables could be arranged in rows for the time being so that children could sit facing in one direction. At other times when this is not necessary, tables could be put together for group work or arranged in any way desired. I would further suggest that these tables and chairs be made of light, cheap wood, at a cost of, say, 12s. or 15s. each for the tables, and about 4s. 6d. each for the chairs. This would mean a considerable saving when compared with the furniture now used.

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Various Stages of Montessori Writing.

Various Stages of Montessori Writing.

The girl sitting in the centre is playing with plane geometrie insets: the boy sitting is developing motor memory by filling in insets blindfolded: the boy at the desk is tracing metal Insets preparatory to filling in design with pencil; the girl on the right in feeling sand-paper letters; the standing girls show finished product.

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The fault of our school furniture in the past has been its too great durability and heaviness. It is made as if intended to last for all eternity, and in five or ten years it is obsolete; but the cost was so much in the first place that we feel we cannot afford to throw it away, and the new thing that is to take its place is generally so expensive that we pause, and hesitate,

"One boy made forty words with cardboard letters in the first ten days."

and stand wavering between the unsuitability of the old and the expense of the new—and meanwhile the children suffer. A lighter and cheaper furniture such as I suggest would have many advantages. It would be easy to renew or replace it when the necessity from any cause arises. From the educational point of view it would teach the child to handle things with care, incidentally to control his body, and direct his movements in such a way as not to knock it over or injure it. Its lightness would enable children to handle it themselves, and thus more movement and freedom in classrooms would be possible. With the fixed desks now in our schools, freedom is almost impossible. I am inclined to think that the day is not far distant when the fixed desk will be laid away with the flogging block and the cane and other ancient instruments of torture.

young student

young student

From the purely hygienic point of view, such furniture, as suggested, would be an advantage. Do what we will dirt accumulates under fixed furniture. Let anyone unscrew one of the desks now in our school rooms, and the truth of this will be borne out in the accumulations of dust under page 38 the narrow strips of iron which fasten it to the floor. A room from which all the furniture can be turned out or moved from one side of the room to the other is a cleaner room than the one in which the charwoman must grope her way and guide her scrubbing-brush round a forest of fixed benches. The hygienic benefits of movable furniture are seen in our Kindergartens. The kindergarten room is usually the cleanest and brightest in the school.

The abolition of the fixed desk in Infant Schools and the substitution of small tables and chairs is, I think, a very necessary step towards reform,