Thursday, October 27, 2016

most real experts agree...

This morning the nation's report card indicated some minor growth at certain grade levels (4th and 8th) in understanding science, but most experts in the sciences agree that standardized testing is a rather poor way to measure science understanding, and that rote memorization is a p-poor way to learn. The following is from an article on NPR:
Carl Wieman is a Nobel Laureate who teaches in Stanford University's physics department and Graduate School of Education. He's an advocate for quality active learning in science classes: limiting lecture and textbook time in favor of small-group problem solving, with the teacher as coach.

He took a look at some sample questions we sent to him, saying many of them are shallow, asking for recall of terminology or facts.

In fact, woodworking was begun in schools to give students a leg up in the understanding of math, and engineering, and children benefit most from those things that cannot be measured in standardized tests. For examples, art and music, instrumental or otherwise, offer opportunities for growth that classroom learning does not.

Yesterday in wood shop, one of my 4rd grade students made one of the cutest toys, as you can see in the photo above.

Today I am spending time writing, and designing a new dining table for a friend.

Make, fix, create, and extend the opportunity to learn likewise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Quite sadly the assumption is made

The assumption is made that human beings are individually conscious and have the individual capacity of free will, and that no other species (plant or animal) has such attributes at the same level. But what we learn through psychology is that human beings are driven in large part by the unconscious mind.

What we learn from those studying the forest, is that trees communicate with each other in a variety of ways, thus displaying behavior akin to human consciousness. These forms of communication are shattered when whole forests are cut. Individual trees may play important roles in community life, just as an individual human may take a leadership role in his or her community.

Taking place slowly through an interchange of chemicals most humans would not equate the forms of communication in the forest between trees as being anything like speech. Nor would they consider such evidence to suggest that trees have human like emotions and feelings or consciousness.

But the line between forest culture (silviculture) and human culture has become blurred. As we study human consciousness (or lack thereof) and forest consciousness (that some might dispute) we find that we are much more like trees than most are willing to assume.

It is truly amazing how closely silviculture resembles human culture.

Man is a symbolic animal in that we use and create metaphors to express things that had been previously inexpressible or inexplicable,  to extend our own range of understanding, and to propose solutions to problems. The house, tree, person test in psychology, in which a child is asked to draw a tree is a way for the psychologist to gain insight into the growth and development of the child. Unlike a child, a tree displays its injuries on the outside, and where the child draws a knot hole, he or she may be describing an injury from the past.

The point, of course, is that we make too many assumptions about life, and about our humanity and our relationship with the rest of creation. In the process, nature is diminished, and students are not seen or understood in their full dimensions.

NPR had an article yesterday that asked, What are the main reasons teachers call it quits? Some might be surprised that money has so little to do with it. But a school is like a forest. When a teacher's roots are allowed to grow deep and become intertwined in fertile soil, good things come forth.

Today in wood shop, my first through 6th grade students will make toys.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

first try...

My middle school students made a first attempt at making lids for their Shaker boxes, but I am encouraging them to try again for a better fit. I explained that the second effort often takes less time than the first, and offers better results. Why would that be? Practice.

The box shown in the photo above is one of my   demonstration boxes from the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

 In addition to shipping boxes, working on my box guitar book, and teaching at Clear Spring School, I am getting ready to participate in an artist's studio tour, November 4-6. Click and print the invitation at a larger size. Come by and see me if you are going to be in the Eureka Springs area. It's a time I will be setting aside for guests.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tiny boxes...

I received my first copy of Tiny Boxes in the mail today, along with the promise that I'll receive more when they arrive in the warehouse during the next two weeks. You can order from in advance of its arrival or wait and order from Taunton Press, offering me the advantage of an extra commission on the sale. I will post a link for that later when one is available. In the meantime, Make, fix, create, and offer others at least a chance of learning likewise.

artful science

One of my readers, Stan, sent a link, Metamorphosis: Art School outreach breathes life into QKE’s arts education from the Honolulu Art Museum about teaching science and the arts. The article features his grand niece. It is certainly true that there is a very fine line between science and the arts, and that schools acted with utter stupidity when they formed classes in which one neglects the other. The arts without science are often lacking what's needed to create great art, and science without the arts? Same deal.

I am reminded of a story told by a friend whose son became a physicist in Chicago. He was told they would have to wait over the weekend and put in an order for the machinists to prepare a device before continuing their experiment. Being the son of a carpenter, he went to his local ace hardware store instead, and had made what they needed before his co-workers showed up on Monday morning.

Our art teacher at Clear Spring School asked if we could make pantographs in wood shop. They could make them from cardboard as shown, but being made from wood makes them lasting and even beautiful:

The video is something math, science and art students should be studying and offers a pantograph they can make. If you listen all the way through to the end of it, there are some nice words about measuring your world, and making things so that you know how to draw them and better understand the world around you.

Make, fix, create, and by example, suggest that others may learn likewise

Saturday, October 22, 2016

the negative space in which relationship exists...

I have in mind the need for an art museum in my home town of Eureka Springs, but it's not just because we are a town filled with artists, and it's not just because there are collectors who would like to contribute works to a new museum, but because a small museum would tell a very special story of relationship and the way a community of artists and patrons in a small town can encourage each other's work.

Last night we held the Mad Hatter's Ball at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs to support the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Each year, the ball features a silent auction in which various donated works of art are sold in support of the school. The quality of work is always amazing.  The story told consistently in our community is of artists who are generous with their time, whith their work and toward each other. A small museum might serve as an example to inspire other small communities to foster the arts.

In the arts, we are reminded to look not just at form, but at the negative space between forms, and in community, we are reminded to look not just at the objects as distinct and separate, but at the relationships that enabled them to be created.

Yesterday in the school wood shop, my high school students worked in their shaker boxes. In my own shop, I applied a second coat of Danish oil to boxes, preparing them to ship.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

on teaching and learning...

Anaxagoras: Man is the wisest of all animals.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a man who builds some of the world's finest wood lathes, and we talked about how difficult it can be to explain (and teach) things for which we have (as yet developed) no words. We would each be hard pressed if we were to have to explain ourselves so that others could completely understand what we do, why we do it, and the guiding principles upon which what we do is based. It is far easier to let our inner guidance act upon our feelings and sense of self to simply create.

But reflection is a good thing. It is important that we think about what we do, as a means of clarifying our own intent. A friend of mine had joined a writer's group, and it was explained to her (as encouragement for her to join), that the value of writing was not just the writing itself, and what might emerge from it, but that writing gives insight into what we feel, what we know, and who we are.

I urge that, too, upon you. It is worth writing, if for no other reason than to better know who we are.

Yesterday I did the inevitable quarterly work at my desk that's a requirement of being in business. I also applied Danish oil to boxes, touched base with a few old friends from my teaching world, like Alan Lacer and Bob Flexner, both of whom I know from Marc Adams School. I heard from a teacher in the Boston area, that based on what I shared with him, all his woodworking students are instructed "that their brains are in their fingertips."

The illustration above is of Greek philosopher Anaxagoras who said, "Man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands." So what is the proper relationship between teaching and learning? We learn when we do things.The teacher's role is to ask students to reflect upon what they've done.

Make, fix, create. Encourage others to love learning likewise.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we began a toy making project that we do each year at this time, making toy cars and trucks to give to the local food bank for holiday distribution. I make wheels by the hundreds using this simple device on the drill press that holds the wheel blank centered on the table for drilling.

The centering clamp is made from a lathe chuck, and makes the process simple enough that the children can drill their own axle holes.

Today I will go back to my writing, and attempt to get two chapters of text complete for my box guitar book. I am also ready to apply a Danish oil finish to boxes.

Make, fix, create, offer others the encouragement to learn likewise.