Sunday, May 20, 2018

no need for a bogus quote...

Yesterday evening I heard a radio program announcer use the following quote in his rapturous support of the arts in school: “When Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’” Churchill, according to extensive research never said such a thing, but the bogus quote once launched circles round and could come back and bite. Who needs made up stuff?

He did actually say, “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” Churchill was in fact a painter.

But do we need to rely upon the expertise of others to see that which is actually at hand? Are educational policy makers dumb or what? Can we not see and bear witness to the power of our hands and the arts and meaning they create? And then make the adjustments necessary to place the arts and science at the center of education?

I was not held captive by the royal wedding yesterday, but I did take time to listen and watch the young American cellist playing at the end of the ceremony. Are we to be given such beauty in life if we do not take time and invest in such things as music, wood shop, and the other arts?

The drawing is one I did to show the immature hammer grip of a child. As he or she learns, grows and gains strength, the hand will move down the shaft to give greater force.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I had a successful White St. Art Walk, selling boxes and visiting with friends.

Yesterday my high school students painted more on the Bevin's Skiff, bringing them nearly to a point of completion.  The students have taken great pride in them and their work as you can see.

Jerome Bruner and others have talked about education as being a process of scaffolding. Bruner's concept of scaffolding comes from his recognition that the development of human intellect is sustained by an external skeleton as described below:
“(a) Human’s use of mind is dependent upon her/his ability to develop and use tools or instruments or technologies that make it possible for him to express and amplify her/his powers”
Scaffolds in the building trades are constructed of light weight components that allow workers to safely reach heights beyond the safety of ladders. The idea of scaffolding is an apt metaphor for what we would like to happen in schools.

Of what is the educational scaffold made? Here is an idea. Experience, what the child already knows, forms the foundation from which inquiry takes place. Technology plays a part, as Einstein said, "My pencil and I are smarter than I am." You can think of the computer as the pencil on steroids. The teacher plays his or her part as a pry bar, attempting to inspire, challenge and steady the child's climb. A fourth component has to do with the school culture. Does it support an atmosphere of inquiry, of creativity and creative expression for teachers and students alike? If we had the fundamental materials of scaffold building on site, what wonders would we behold in American education! Can you see it from where you are? Use scaffolding to get a better view.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, May 18, 2018

white st.

I have set up a display of my work at the Lux Weaving Studio for the White St. Art Walk. It is one of the premier art events of the May Festival of the Arts. Join us this evening from 4-10 PM

This is a busy weekend. I am trying to help my students finish projects at school. My wife is getting ready for the Books in Bloom Literary Festival at the Crescent Hotel on Sunday. I will be there directing traffic.

The toy tank is one that I made as an example, based on similar toys my students have made in the past. Having seen it as an example, some of my students now want to make them. It works that way. What they see they want to make. The physical object tells them what they need that with experience tells them what to do next. What they make may not end up looking like mine after their own creativity is launched. Attention to the relationship between the concrete and the abstract is a useful tool in planning lessons and learning. When kids do real things in school, no test is required as the real learning is self evident in what they've done.

It is a lovely day today to finish painting our Bevins Skiffs. We will do that.

Make, fix, create, and adjust learning so that all students have the opportunity to learn likewise.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

pride and sadness.

The elaborate home arrangement shown in the photo took two weeks of twice a week wood shop to complete. I cannot tell you what everything is, but I can tell that it was well thought out and carefully decorated and arranged.

Today I continue arranging my work at the Lux Weaving Studio in preparation for the White St. Art Walk on Friday May 18 from 4 PM until 10 o'clock.

Yesterday my middle school students finished their birdhouses. They were not perfect, but as the kids noted, "the birds won't mind."

Yesterday we had a new student in wood shop whose parents have enrolled him for the coming year. His little brother was along when his mother came to pick him up. I could hear the little brother screaming from across the playground, "I didn't get to make anything!" The tears were real.

Would you not also be sad if your brother had gotten to make something and you had not? I invited the boy to come into the shop and select from some items that had been left unclaimed and unwanted by other students. The boy left happy. If all works out well, he will be in the Clear Spring School wood shop in a couple years making things for himself.

How do we impress upon parents the need their children have to create?  The pride they have in what they've made might have some effect.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

how to avoid whacking your thumb.

A friend of mine showed up at the gym with his thumb bandaged having been hit by a hammer hard enough that he might lose his nail. That can happen to anyone. My illustration tells how to avoid it. The captions read "Hold nail at point, hammer miss smashes thumb."  "Hold nail at the top, hammer miss brushes thumb aside before striking wood." In the one case, depending on how hard the thumb is whacked, the nail could be bruised or bloodied and left in great pain. In the other case, no harm is done.

Please heed this simple advice.

The interesting thing is that out of fear we would typically try to keep our fingers away from where the hammer will strike, thus putting them at greater risk.

I have been going through mountains of information I've compiled about woodworking with kids, trying to distill it to an essence that will help parents and teachers feel confident allowing children to create beautiful and lasting things from real wood.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, my students and I will be cleaning, organizing shop, and finishing projects that must not be left over the summer months.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Winding down...

We are winding down the school year at the Clear Spring School with this being the last full week of classes. Students are working on end of year presentations and performances, and it always seems to come quickly to this point. Yesterday in wood shop, one of my youngest students announced that he wanted to make a train. I invited him to study an engine that had been left hanging about, and asked him to tell me what he needed first. With me supplying the materials, he left the wood shop happy, indeed.

I have been making rings on the lathe to use as rewards for extra effort in cleaning the wood shop. I used most of those yesterday with my students grade 4-8 pitching it to help.

One of the big challenges in box making with kids is to get them to make square cuts. If the cuts are not square, the box will not be. If the box is not square, the lids and bottoms will be hard to fit, and the box will not sit on a table flat. Square cuts are why we have miter boxes.

Yesterday I got a new miter saw for use in the wood shop at school and as an illustration of what is available to others wanting to introduce wood working to kids. This one is made by Stanley, and was delivered to my door for $38.00 through Amazon. To prepare it for actual use, I'll add a board on the bottom that will then allow it to be clamped to the bench or table, so that students can put their attention into powering the saw, rather than in holding the miter box still during the cut. The saw is large, but the teeth are small and hardened for long life.

I purchased this saw to test because it has those little yellow clamps, that twist tight against the stock. While large adult hands may have enough strength to hold the stock in position while a cut is made, a child's hands do not. I'll be testing it with kids later in the week.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, May 14, 2018

moving toward crunch time.

This week I have the White St. Art Walk at which I'll sell work and next week is the end of the school year with high school graduation and our annual program, the celebration of the child. This Sunday, the literary festival my wife created and co-directs is happening, also. This is a busy time.

I spent the weekend reviewing photos, taking a few new ones and writing portions of chapters of a Wisdom of the Hands guide for teachers, parents and friends wanting to help children learn woodworking. It is all a lot to get my head around.

I have been reading Pestalozzi's book, How Gertrude Teaches Her Children which is basically an account of how Pestalozzi developed his teaching methods. It provides insight into his character and his goals which was in large part to make education accessible to all and to do so through the senses.
"You are as a physical living being nothing but your five senses; consequently the clearness or mistiness of your ideas must absolutely and essentially rest. upon the nearness or distance with which all external objects touch these five senses,—that is, yourself, the centre, because your ideas converge in you.

"You, yourself, are the centre of all your sense-impressions; you are also yourself an object for your sense-impressions. It is easier to make all that is within you clear and plain than all that is without you. All that you feel of yourself is in itself a definite sense impression; only that which is without can be a con fused sense-impression for you.

"It follows that the course of your knowledge, in so far as it touches your self, is a step shorter than when it comes from some thing outside yourself. All that you know of yourself, you know clearly; all that you yourself know is in you, and in itself clear through you.

"It follows that this road to clear ideas is easier and safer in this direction than in any other; and among all that is clear nothing can be clearer than this principle: man’s knowledge of truth comes from his knowledge of himself." –Pestalozzi
Pestalozzi was one of the building blocks of progressive education. Building things and making things is one of the ways we use the formation of sense impressions in schooling. Squirming in your seat is not but may be what you remember most.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.