When youāre eight years old, and finally you get to experiment with those tubs of multicolored pattern blocks, a world of possibilities opens up for you. If youāre lucky enough to have a teacher who believes in revealing certain attributes of these shapes, in providing some questions to whet your appetite for exploration, and in giving you time to appease your curiosity and to experiment with the patterns you create, the result may well be geomancy. A child needs to learn how to listen for her inner questions about the designs she sees all around her in nature. She needs as well the time to give inner speech to the wonderment these complex symmetries of the earth provoke. She requires time to express, explore and examine the permutations and combinations of natureās patterns sheās discovering.
"Geomancy" is dryly defined in Websterās as divination by random figures formed when a handful of earth is cast upon the ground; or when dots or lines are connected at random. ĪGeosā means Īthe earthā, while Īmanteiaā is from the old Greek, meaning Īdivinationā. I like the idea that the child goes through a process of random experimentation in order to find the patterns she has already internalized; through the concrete manipulation of pattern blocks, she is divining her sense of the world.
Working with pattern blocks is tremendously satisfying to many children, especially those who order their world visually. Some children who have problems with dyslexia or reversals in ordinary schooling, especially print, are really successful with pattern blocks. I speculate that because of their difficulties, they pay close attention to figure-ground relationships. Once a pattern is noticed, they practice and repeat it until they recognize it whether or not it gets flipped over or changes places in their perception.
When we do our first explorations with pattern blocks, the children move them around to discover a multitude of relationships between different shapes. They are busy trying to satisfy what appears to be an innate desire to create symmetry and balance in their immediate surroundings. Designs that are less random and more repetitive begin to appear. Finally, they sit back with a sigh of satisfaction and announce, ćLook, madam. See what I made?ä
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