Monday, May 14, 2007

This is my one year anniversary of my arrival in Nääs, Sweden, and I want to spend a few days on the subject of Educational Sloyd and why it might be relevant in today's education.

When we began the Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School, it was based in large part on my 25 year career as a self-employed woodworker, and my observations of the integral role of the hands in the shaping and development of thought. In October of 2001, I went to the first meeting of a newly formed woodworking teacher's organization in New Hampshire. Jack Grube, president of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers and I had been correspondents for over a year about the decline of woodworking in schools, and the need for an organization to help turn the tide. So, despite my physical location in Arkansas, I became one of the founding members of NEAWT.

Going to the first meeting of NEAWT gave me the chance to visit other schools including North Bennett St. School in Boston and Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge. At both of these schools, one for adults and the other for children, the matter of Sloyd came up in conversations and up to that time, I knew nothing about Sloyd except that it was a term used to describe a particular design of knife sold in the Woodcraft Catalog. Unfortunately, even at North Bennett St. School and at the other schools I visited on my trip, Sloyd was a vague thing... a concept from the obscure past about which very little was known. But there was something about it... When I told others of the Wisdom of the Hands program and how it was envisioned, for some reason, it brought Sloyd to mind... at least for those few who knew some little something about it.

When I returned to Arkansas, I felt determined to learn about Sloyd and I plunged in, using internet resources to find people with knowledge about Sloyd and to purchase whatever old Sloyd books I could lay my hands on. The first person of authority I found was a gentleman in Sweden, Hans Thorbjörnsson, who had written articles about the founder of world-wide Sloyd movement, Otto Salomon, and who had written books and articles about the Sloyd teacher training school at Nääs.

I don't plan to write this whole thing at a single sitting. There will be more later or tomorrow which I hope will become another article about Sloyd for Woodwork magazine. If you have any questions that arise as you read my account, please ask either in the comments or by email. All questions will be answered.

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