Saturday, July 21, 2018

learning in the real world

One of the things that children do as a matter of course is learn. We are hard wired for it. We are not wired for sitting still in classrooms and being instructed in things that the adult world has assumed we must be taught.

And so, when it comes to design of education we must carefully avoid disrupting that which is most natural to each child, the inclination to learn and to love learning.

Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences made the important point that we are smart in a variety of ways and that we each have inclinations and abilities to learn related to individual dominance of particular senses. Gardner's work led to good thing in the recognition that not all children learn the same. It also led to demands that teachers carefully script their lesson plans to match a variety of learning styles, that the teacher may not have much experience or confidence in.

In fact, those who graduate from traditional colleges to become teachers are among those who've demonstrated a strong inclination for academic learning, and little for the rest of it.

So let's break barriers. A+ Schools is about that. I am pleased that at the Clear Spring School, we now have two A+ fellows who will take on the responsibility of training teachers in other schools. In addition, ESSA will host the Arkansas A+ fellows retreat in October. At that retreat I'll teach the fellows to teach teachers to use woodworking. I am pleased that the Clear Spring School is stepping up to a role of leadership in educational reform

The point is not just to put arts and crafts in school, but to bring real life into the classroom and to make sure that the child's full range of senses is employed. From a prescriptive approach, one might say, Johnny, is kinesthetic, Angela is auditory, Susie is haptic,  and Ermilio is visual in their learning styles. But if you are simply proceeding to do real things, all the senses and all the learning styles are energized and employed.

If you enter my woodshed at the Clear Spring School the first thing that hits you is the fresh smell of wood. All of the senses follow.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 20, 2018

at this point

I have the Governor's Quality Award bases ready for gluing, sanding, and finish. Those tasks will wait for my return from my box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

The bases are simply trial assembled without glue at this point to check to see that all the parts fit, and that the miter joints are tight.

 I leave for Indiana today. The car will be loaded with boxes, tools and supplies. The boxes are to lead students through a design exercise and to serve as examples. We learn best through  concrete examples, and the process of design is needlessly abstract without examples to study and learn from.

And so, once again, I remind my readers of the principles of Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. These same principles apply to effective learning in all subjects. Few academics would acknowledge they might learn something from industrial arts.

For that reason I'll carefully explain that Adolph Diesterweg was the source of inspiration for the principles of Educational Sloyd. Friedrich Adolph Wilhelm Diesterweg  ( ) was not specifically an advocate for manual training, but as an associate of Friedrich Froebel was one of the philosophical influences that Cygnaeus drew upon in the formation of the Finnish Folk Schools. Diesterweg was a prolific writer, with his most notable works being on the role of the Volksshcule (folk school) in the promotion of democracy. As with Friedrich Froebel's Kindergartens, the Kaiser shut Diesterweg's schools down, too. Progressive education and an intelligent populace are inconsistent with the aims of militarism and authoritarianism. In a top down militarist society, you cannot have people who think for themselves and are willing to stand up to fascist inclinations.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn likewise.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

inlaying spalted wood

As you can see in the photo, I've sawn spalted sycamore into thin strips and have routed channels in walnut for them to fit. I am making 5 Arkansas Governor's Award bases recipients of the quality award. What you see in the photo are the parts for one base. Next I'll miter and assemble these parts, sand the assemblies and prepare the parts for application of a Danish oil finish.

I have loaded photos of making patterned inlay on my instagram account.

In addition to making the Quality Award bases, I continue to prepare for my box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

gluing exotic woods

One of my students in Connecticut sent this photo of me making my classic inlay. As always, I learned a few things.

One of my students went home in the evening and made his own version of the inlay using exotic woods, some of which don't work well with yellow glue. When he attempted to cut the glued up block into thin strips, the first cut broke at the joint between two resinous woods.

"Quit right there," I insisted.  "It is not going to work."

His block had contained highly resinous woods incapable of making a secure glue joint with yellow glue.

Would other glues work? The point of my own inlay is to demonstrate the beauty and utility of our own native hardwoods, and building my patterns using exotic hardwoods has never been of interest to me. But I am always in debt to my students for teaching me a few things. While making these patterns works well with domestic hardwoods, some exotics should be kept from the mix.

Thanks you, Larry for the photo.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today in the wood shop.

I have been working on Arkansas Governor's Quality Award bases. My hope is to have them ready to assemble before I leave for Indiana on Friday where I'll teach for a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Having come from one box making class and preparing to leave for another has put me in good shape.

Today I will inlay the parts for the bases with spalted woods as I've done from the start in 1994. Then I'll make a small sliding top box for use as a demonstration in my current book and perhaps add just a  bit about the making of wheels.

I watched with horror, but with no surprise as President Trump met with Vladimir Putin to proudly undermine American values. Treason is the crime of betraying one's country. Now that Trump has done so in a public manner, shamelessly for all to see, perhaps not so many Republicans will collude or condone. Some may actually find the courage to stand up.

Do I dare hold my breath? When faced with evil, proceed to do the good. And there is plenty of good to be done in the wood shop.

Make, fix and  create...

Monday, July 16, 2018


Yesterday I was using a jig that I'd made over twenty years ago from flimsy nailed together stock.  It had been quickly made but worked, was kept and served year after year. It broke as it started into the planer, so I made another.

I'd not known that the  first one would last so long, or that my making of Arkansas Governor's Awards for quality would be such a lasting thing. This is my 24th year of making the prestigious award.

Knowing now what I did not know then, I've made this one with better stock. It is more robust. The purpose of it is to carry angled stock through the planer to be surfaced first on one side and then the other. The glued up walnut will become a portion of the award base.

In addition to working on the awards bases, I am getting ready for my week long box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and will spend a bit of time working on my current book.

Make, fix, create and create opportunities for others to learn likewise.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

One week

I am home in Arkansas and have one week to do two things. The first thing is to be ready to leave for my class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking Class on Friday. My class will begin on Monday morning July 23 but I intend to visit family on the way.

My second thing is to work on Arkansas Governor's Awards for Quality. This is my 24th year of producing this special award. Some years one company may meet standards, sometimes two, and sometimes none. Last year no top level awards were given, but this year, we seem to have bumper crop. I have been assured that the award bases I've made in the past are treasures to the folks who have worked so hard to earn them and they are put on prominent display.

Yesterday I visited Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, and the adjoining Harriet Beecher Stowe house and museum. Both were wonderful and enlightening. The folks at the Stowe house were especially accommodating. I had a very tight schedule and was offered a special  "walk-through" house tour that allowed me to catch my flight.

The bed shown is the actual Harriet Beecher Stowe bed in which she slept the last years of her life. On the bed is a large facsimile of the paper in which her book Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published. Her husband Calvin Stowe, had urged her to use her power of pen to write in response to the horror's she had witnessed in slavery. She did.

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