Wednesday, May 25, 2016

almost summer

My summer has almost started, and yesterday I had my last day of class for the school year at Clear Spring School. My high school students were busy finishing their box guitars and one finished her battery powered amp. In the photo at left you can see the initial drawing used in the design of Ozric's guitar. While some changes were made, the overall design remained true to his original concept. The design will go in his school portfolio.

Today I'll be going through photos of the student's school year, organizing evidence of their learning, and will make a trip to a photo processor so that photos of their work can be included in student portfolios as documentation of their growth.

The standard means of assessment in the US is the distribution of letter grades about which many students care nothing. They know that school is about getting through, as though it is something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But students at Clear Spring have other ideas about schooling and while looking forward to summer activities are not pleased to have school out for the summer.

I have a busy summer planned that I am looking forward to. On June 7, 8 and 9, I'll have an editor here from Fine Woodworking to take photos for two articles in the magazine that will come out sometime late in 2016 or early in 2017. Then on June 15, I'll travel to Marc Adams School of Woodworking for 9 days of class, making boxes and small cabinets.

During the summer months I simply change from teaching kids to teaching adults, and never lose access to the opportunity to create beautiful and useful objects from wood.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

the science of touch

Tim Holton sent this article about touch: What the Science of Touch Says About Us. And what we can hope is that someday education begins to make use of what science knows about learning. So far, they have not, for education tends to go its merry way, ignoring our most useful and important learning resources.

We seem to know the power of visual representations. For example, Comenius, the father of modern pedagogy, introduced the first picture books during his lifetime (1592-1670). But the power of touch has not been so well understood, and has therefore been ignored.

The work of Craik and Lockhart (1972) explored how the senses were utilized in the formation of memory.
Tactile memory representations are similar in nature to visual representations, although there is not enough data to reliably compare the strength of the two kinds of stimuli. One study suggests that there is a difference in mental processing level due to innate differences between visual and tactile stimuli representations.[18] In this study, subjects were presented with an object in both visual and tactile form (a subject is shown a sphere but cannot touch it, and later is given a similar sphere to only hold and not view). Subjects had more trouble identifying size difference in visual fields than using tactile feedback. A suggestion for the lower level of size processing in visual fields is that it results from the high variance in viewed object size due to perspective and distance.
So, in other words, the hands and eyes process learning in a similar manner, although using different parts of the brain, and with the eyes being less efficient at determining scale.

One would think that the formation of memory would be of foremost importance in education, right? What is the point of going to such lengths to present massive amounts of information if the children are not to remember a thing? In any case, research shows that memories are made strong and long lasting when all the senses are used if the making of them. For example, when students do something real.

Back in the days of educational Sloyd and the widespread distribution of the Kindergarten method, the close and powerful relationship between hand and eye was widely understood. But in time, the hands were shoved aside. They require a higher level of engagement, and for some reason, the hands and the training of the hands did not fit the scheme of massive indoctrination that was to take place in schooling.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others an understanding of learning likewise.

Monday, May 23, 2016

it bears repeating.

Over the weekend, I've been going over plans for the new woodshop at ESSA to make certain the various pieces of equipment will fit the floor plan. This is all in advance of the architect's preparation of drawings to put the project out for pricing and bid. It is a fabulous adventure for me, as equipment will be selected and ordered, and the project offers the opportunity for conferences and clubs in addition to classes.

In the meantime, I have two more days of class before summer break. Today I will continue organizing the shop for adult summer classes.

I say it bears repeating. The central message of this blog is mentioned each day in the hopes it gets through.  The message is simple. This blog is like a small electronic device sending a simple message each day into the uncharted universe in the hopes that some distant intelligent life form will respond. But it's not quite as hopeless as all that. If folks simply look at their own lives and their own learning experiences and then look at the appendages dangling at the ends of their wrists, they will realize the truth of what I say.

The hands are central to learning. To learn through the eyes and ears alone is to leave learning at arms length, beyond touch and beyond children being touched. We ask children to spend time in isolation from their most effective sensory appendages, and thereby ignore the educator's most important resource: The child's intellectual engagement that arises through the use of the hands.

The hands are symbolic of the whole man. When the ship is endangered, the first mate calls, "all hands on deck." He does not say, "Hey you eyeballs, come up and watch the ship go down."

And we are at that point in American education. We need to re-engineer learning to take advantage of the educator's best gift for the engagement of student minds: the hands.

Why does this work? The answer may be in: the level of processing effect.
The levels-of-processing effect, identified by Fergus I. M. Craik and Robert S. Lockhart in 1972, describes memory recall of stimuli as a function of the depth of mental processing. Deeper levels of analysis produce more elaborate, longer lasting, and stronger memory traces than shallow levels of analysis. Depth of processing falls on a shallow to deep continuum. Shallow processing (e.g., processing based on phonemic and orthographic components) leads to a fragile memory trace that is susceptible to rapid decay. Conversely, deep processing (e.g., semantic processing) results in a more durable memory trace.
This theory contradicts the multi-store Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model which represents memory strength as being continuously variable (1968)/ Where assumption that rehearsal always improves long-term memory. They argued that rehearsal that consists simply of repeating previous analyses (maintenance rehearsal) doesn't enhance long-term memory.[1]
Anaxagoras, Greek philosopher shown above, said that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands. So how do we become wise if we ignore them and continue with schooling in which their use is so seriously curtailed.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

three things

I have been getting some feedback from my Portland classes. John Kinnear sent this lovely photo of a box for Froebel's gift number 5  that he made for his grandson's birthday. You know it will be treasured for a lifetime, as the box itself is exquisite and the blocks nested inside will receive hours of creative play.

John was a student in my two day box making class and had been a teacher for over 30 years. He knows that the intellectual charge given by parents, grandparents and other caring adults is the most powerful force in a child's development.

Yesterday I delivered a hand-carved jewelry box I had made years ago to a woman in Berryville, Arkansas. I made the box for an article in Woodwork Magazine and it has been in my office for years. But the woman remembered it and asked if it was still for sale. When I delivered it, she said, "your work makes me happy."

Jacob Cogger at Waldo Middle School in Salem, Oregon invited his 12-14 years old students to make boxes following the educational symposium we held in Portland during my week there. He says they used my boxes for inspiration.

If you have any doubts that woodworking is a useful class to have in every school, perhaps the following photos will put those doubts to rest.

These boxes were bravely done. Can you imagine making your own hinges, either from metal or wood? Most woodworkers choose to buy hinges instead. Some are made with box joints, and others with hand cut dovetails. Each of these boxes is unique, and involves the testing of materials, learning the properties of wood, and applying skill, imagination and attention to an object that will serve lifelong as evidence of learning. Each is an expression of useful beauty.







I want to thank Jacob and his students for sharing their marvelous work with me. I can honestly say to each of them, "Your work makes me happy."

Make, fix, create, and offer to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

smart stuff, stupid people.

Last night was the White St. Art Walk in Eureka Springs, and I showed my work to interested persons and sold some of it. The event is normally a time to connect with old friends much more that than an opportunity to sell work. The weather was perfect and the street outside Lux Weaving Studio turned into a full fledged street fair. The artists who started the annual event have become a sideline attraction, but is that not how things work?

I am reminded of an American cello player who toured China as an amateur musician. He told that as he played in a Chinese home, the children would get on the floor and wrestle and play, but when he'd stop, the children would stop playing and stare, wondering why the music had stopped. Is that not the place of the arts in the scheme of things? We provide the backbone of human culture around which all else follows. The American musician had presupposed that people might listen as one might listen to a church sermon, but the children responded in a more honest way, by letting the music invigorate their lives.

On the title of this post, the National Science Foundation, wondered what people knew about science and technology, and discovered, not much.
NSF surveys have asked respondents to explain in their own words what it means to study something scientifically. Based on their answers, it is possible to conclude that most Americans (two-thirds in 2001) do not have a firm grasp of what is meant by the scientific process.[27] This lack of understanding may explain why a substantial portion of the population believes in various forms of pseudoscience. (See discussion of "Belief in Pseudoscience" in this chapter.) 
One might think that as much smart stuff in the form of digital technology that we have and that fills our culture, people might know something about it... Sorry, not much:
Most Americans are probably not technologically literate. They have little conception of how science, technology, and engineering are related to one another, and they do not clearly understand what engineers do and how engineers and scientists work together to create technology. Those are the major findings of a recent report issued by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC) (Committee on Technological Literacy 2002). In addition, the International Technology Education Association (ITEA) concluded from its 2001 survey that "adults are very interested in but relatively poorly informed about technology" (Rose and Dugger 2002).[29]
Technology has become so user friendly it is largely "invisible." Americans use technology with a minimal comprehension of how or why it works or the implications of its use or even where it comes from. American adults and children have a poor understanding of the essential characteristics of technology, how it influences society, and how people can and affect its development. 
The following points are also made:
Technological literacy is particularly important for decision makers in business, government, and the media. However, as the report notes, "there is no evidence to suggest that legislators or their staff are any more technologically literate than the general public."

Technological literacy is extremely important to the health of the U.S. economy. Technological innovation is a major factor in the vitality of the economy, and an increasing number of jobs require workers to be technologically literate.
It appears that as we've become a nation of smart stuff, stupid people, and we need to do a better job educating students, and educating teachers to teach students, and give more trust and training to teachers to prepare students for learning, and we ought to have a sense of urgency about it. We also need to give teachers a clear mission to teach hands-on so that each child will be drawn into deeper engagement with technology and the arts.

We must consider how to infuse schools with the more fundamental technologies that provide an entry point to understanding tools and materials so that students begin to grasp the ways in which our technology driven world can be taken into their own creative hands. Wood shop, music, the arts, and laboratory science each have a part to play.

One of the highlights of my night was to see many of my students from Clear Spring School.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Friday, May 20, 2016

kids work

My second grade student's fanciful triple wing prop/jet will be treasured for weeks. It is more or less a collection of everything he knows about airplanes. It has wheels, wings, jet engines, propellers at front and rear, and the top wing rotates to give some control during flight. (Have real aeronautical engineers thought of that?) The extra wheels give the pilot something to do. The green golf tee is used to lock the wing in position.

I realize at this point, that a revolution in the way we teach kids is not coming soon. Enabling personal creativity is not the goal of public education. If it produces a steady stream of consumers, mired ball and chain to the measurable economy, the financiers and politicians they control are happy indeed.

But when you take matters into your own hands, by making your own toys, or making your own music, or by making beauty and meaning in your own life, you are withdrawing at least in small measure from the control of those who care so little for what they've messed up.

The school gerbil died yesterday morning and 4th 5th and sixth grade students came into the wood shop to build a coffin and to make a memorial marker. The graveside service was a sweet thing. Lil Scratch and his partner Chewy lived good lives, and brought a great deal of joy to our students over the last 3 years.

I have two more days of class at the Clear Spring School and then will begin an intense cleaning of the wood shop to prepare for ESSA classes.

I have nearly finished a second ukulele, and will spend the day getting ready for the White St. Art Walk which will take place between 4-10 PM here in Eureka Springs.

As usual, during the White St. Art Walk, I will be displaying and selling my work at Lux Weaving Studio. Come and see. I will be signing copies of my new book.

Unsigned copies are available at a discount from the link below. Use the code STOWE15 to receive a 15% discount.

Save 15% at Shop Woodworking with Offer Code STOWE15
Make, fix, create and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

special offer...

My second ukulele is nearly complete as you can see in the photo. When I have a coat of finish on it, I'll put my instrument making aside to do other things.

My new book, Build 25 Beautiful Boxes is being offered at a 15% discount from ShopWoodworking.com. Follow the link below and use the discount code stowe15 during checkout to receive your discount. Shipping is free for purchases over $25.00.

This new book is a compilation of my first two books that the publisher allowed to go out of print. If you don't have Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques, or Simply Beautiful Boxes you may find this book useful. It is available both digitally and in hard copy through the link below.
Save 15% at Shop Woodworking with Offer Code STOWE15
In the meantime, I am going to be busy today setting up for the White St. Art Walk,beginning to clean my wood shop in preparation for a visiting editor from Fine Woodworking, and starting to plan for my summer classes.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.