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Lesson Plans

Fine motor skills, gourd art...observations from Ecuador

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Maggie White (mwhite)
Thu, 05 Aug 1999 08:13:44 -0700

Hello, all,

I am back from a long trip to Ecuador. Even though I did not
participate in the list, I was keeping abreast of the discussions
through the Internet cafes there. Two threads in particular intrigued

1) Regarding the teaching of fine motor skills: I was discussing
weaving with my Spanish instructor and showing him pix of my students
working; I wanted to learn vocabulary so I could discuss techniques with
the weavers there. He told me that in the recent past, educators were
finding that HS and college-level boys had very poor keyboarding
skills. To remedy that, they started teaching weaving and knitting to
young boys at what would be the primary level (boys and girls are
separated at this age in most schools). The education establishment
believes that teaching these skills has helped improve the boys'
abilities (I presumed in many areas besides keyboarding) as they get
older. Food for thought...

2) The recent discussion on gourd art: There were a number of artisans
at the famous Otavalo market displaying beautifully detailed carved
gourds. The most common forms were: a.) delightfully animated
frieze-like designs representating indigenous dancers, musicians,
campesinos in the field, or stylized animals. These were done on gourds
that are slighly flattened on the top and bottom (like a bagel, only not
quite that flattened). b.) owls or other birds, sometimes sitting on a
nest of eggs, done on fat teardrop-shaped gourds; beaks were added to
them. c.) long-necked birds made of--you guessed it--gourds with fat
bodies and elongated necks (like exaggerated yellow squash). The gourds
appear to be stained--not opaquely painted--with rich blacks and
browns. The lines that are carved into the gourds give the appearance
of sgrafitto, where the light tan of the gourds shows through the
incised lines.

During my travels I visited several weaving villages and got to observe
and photograph people spinning and weaving. I'm writing a paper on
native weaving for a professional growth class. I also developed a
fascination for the pre-Incan cultures of Ecuador; until this trip I'd
known nothing about them, except for a slide of the famous gold mask of
the Tolita culture. The Incas were only in power in Ecuador for about
60 years before the Spaniards showed up; there were other cultures that
were much more prominent before them. The world-class museum of the
Banco Central has a terrific collection of pre-Incan artifacts in clay
and gold. Since my students do effigy vessels as part of their ceramics
unit, I did a lot of sketching of the effigy vessels in the museum.
When I refine these sketches I'll offer them to you along with
historical commentary if you're interested.

Another interesting display was of sellos (seals or stamps) of the
Jama-Coaque culture. These are beautiful and intricate cylindrical or
flat stamps, made of clay, that were probably used to decorate the
bodies of participants of ceremonies, and possibly some textiles; no
one's really sure how they were used. As Bunki says, that got my brain
gears to crankin'; looks like the basis for a new assignment in

Whew, I saw and experienced so much in those six weeks. If I get to be
a bore about it in the upcoming weeks, just whup me upside the head.
It's sorta good to be back, a bit disorienting (I have to fix my own
meals now!). I was looking forward to the new school year 'til I walked
into the school yesterday--a major renovation and addition doesn't look
anywhere near done (and teachers start back next week!); the allegedly
repaired roof has been leaking rain in many classrooms, including mine,
since June, and there's soggy ceiling tiles, magazines and newpapers
mildewing all over my floors and counters. All my furniture and
equipment is shoved together in one area, forcing me to create a
mouse-maze path to my office and cabinets. Ah well, we'll muddle


  • Reply: John & Sandra Barrick: "Re: Fine motor skills, gourd art...observations from Ecuador"