Our hands, with their opposable thumbs have enabled us to conquer and control our environment, for better or for worse. The marvellous things we can do with our hands are evident throughout education, from the wondrous and intriguing creations of young children developing their fine motor skills to the beautiful drawings, paintings and sculptures and scientific investigations produced up to university level. The positive outcomes of the arts in education makes it worthwhile to fight for their place in the curriculum. Examples of the creative use of the hands can be cited in all subjects.
Writing things down is a highly valued manual skill which most children develop as they go through school. However, for a significant number of children and young people the physical act of writing things down is a task that they say is difficult and that they dislike. It is ethical to be flexible in the recording expected of children with such needs so that their handwriting skills do not form a barrier to the expression of their thoughts and ideas.
Teachers who frequently employ the use of their hands in gesture and other non-verbal communication enrich their lessons and encourage a higher level of concentration and comprehension in their students. However, young people who struggle to sit and listen for more than 10 minutes at a time, generally crave a more hands on curriculum. Contrast their zoning out or acting out during teacher exposition or writing tasks to how they spring into action when they are doing science experiments or cooking, for example. Unfortunately their access to such tasks may be too limited for their needs. It may not be until after they start dropping out of school that they are able to have their proprioceptive learning style. In alternative provision their behaviour and commitment to learning are often turned around when they are able to engage in such activities as painting and decorating, bicycle maintenance or gardening raising the issue of the need for the curriculum to fit the students. All children and young people need to be able to make use of their hands according to their needs and ability.