Friday, December 26, 2008

Boat Building in Schools

Wooden Boat Magazine never fails to offer interest to the hands. And the recently arrived edition (January/February 2009) is no exception. In the "Currents" section, a number of wooden boat building programs for kids from around the country are described and the benefits of hands-on learning shines through with every word. John Rowse, fourth and fifth grade teacher in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts works in a program in collaboration with a kindergarten teacher. He wrote:
"the kindergartners saw the logic of breaking things into tenths and being able to see and understand how we were looking at smaller and smaller parts. When a couple of them started reading dimensions to the hundredth place with the decimal accurately placed, it really got me to thinking about how we teach." The answer he believes, is that "thinking spatially is that missing piece."
Thinking spatially is indeed a missing piece, and one that wood shops and craft programs of all kinds offered at one time in American education. Remove the hands, you have removed all opportunities for concrete engagement.

We expect kids to be engaged in learning without ever having given them any concrete attachment to the subject material. Does it work? Think for yourself how things work in your own life. You may have lots of interests, some idle, some active. How did you get started on the ones that are most compelling? I suspect it had something to do with your hands.

1 comment:

John Rowse said...

Thanks for the positive comments! Folks interested in learning more about the need for more work on spatial thinking in our schools should see the full text of a recent National Academy of Sciences report. A link is available on our web site. www.bostonfamilyboatbuilding.com
"Spatial Thinking is as important as literacy"