Friday, December 07, 2007

I am applying to be a presenter at a 2nd International Conference on Sloyd. This one is in Helsinki, Finland in September 2008. If you are a regular reader, you won't find anything new in the following but it is the abstract of my presentation. It was asked that abstracts be 250 words or less, and I asked for permission for mine to run just a bit long.
Tools, Hands and the Expansion of Intellect

Abraham Maslow (American Psychologist 1908-1970): “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” So what if the only tool we offer in education is a computer? As powerful as that computer may be, does it tempt children (or ourselves) to view all things as virtual or unreal? Will solutions to real problems be thought found in the buttons, command-control-delete? There is magic in the manipulation of real tools and real materials. They engage the heart and soul of the learner, and we are endangered by our abandonment in American schools of the commonplace and mundane tools that form the foundation of human creativity.

But there is more… modern research on gesture and MRI investigation of the brain reveal the significance of the varied and rhythmic use of the hands in the development of human intellect. In essence, we are made stupid when our hands are stilled.

While most American schools and homes are involved in a vast and risky experiment in which the tools of artists and craftsmen are largely abandoned, Clear Spring School, a small independent school in Northwest Arkansas is different. We are on the cutting edge in the use of tools. In fact, we make our own tools for the exploration of learning, from hand-carved ink pens based on the 1885 Nääs Sloyd model series to the looms our children use in weaving and textiles. And when the child makes the tools used in his or her own instruction, there is a depth of interest and understanding that cannot be approached otherwise.

This presentation will illustrate in words and photos how a small school woodworking shop rooted in the principles and heritage of Educational Sloyd can be the focal point of an integrated curriculum, in which the interconnectedness of all things becomes known and expressed through the hands of each child, and how all subjects from math to physics to literature are deepened in scope and meaning by time spent in the woodshop.
In the meantime, at the Clear Spring School wood shop, students from the Critical Thinking class finished their cube puzzles as shown in the photos above and below.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:49 AM

    It just dawned on me that I have one of those puzzles in plastic. It deserves to be redone in wood.