Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Today in the Clear Spring School Wood Shop

This morning the 3rd and 4th grade students continued their study of the rain forest by working on the animal life. We made stand-up animal models. I helped by doing the scroll sawing since that is a skill we introduce in the 5th and 6th grades. Next they will be painted.

The 1st and 2nd grade students are still studying native Americans and have turned their attention to the American Southwest. They did weaving with paper and string yesterday and today we made looms. This is a project that requires a great deal of preparation for the wood shop teacher, as the idea is that the project provides a loom of sufficient quality that it can last the child for years. This time we modified the looms slightly over last, making them narrower and with larger dowels, providing fewer strings in the warp to make it easier for small hands and less challenging for first and second graders, each loom having less width to fill up.

The 7th and 8th grade students are studying grammar and writing essays. So we used the wood shop for another kind of story telling. I m uncertain sometimes how students will take to the projects I come up with. And sometimes they show some resistance. But today, despite my uncertainties, they loved the project. We took a 7 foot long board of walnut and turned it into a cutting board puzzle. I had them line up and each was to partner with students on their left and right to make the puzzle pieces. A squiggle line followed by student-made jig saw cuts divided the board into sections, that could serve as a reminder of the class. The pieces tell the story of who stood by whom as each separate cutting board was made. Now they are sanding.

First grader Stephen, today, told me, "I hate wood shop." It is a thing I've heard before. And I've learned it is a thing that seems to repair itself. There is a fine line between willfulness, causing a child to be resistant and uncooperative in a school setting, and "will" which when engaged leads to irresistible momentum toward learning success. How do you encourage cooperation without running rough-shod over the child's internal motivation? That is a challenge all teachers face. It's why teaching is as much art as science. This, I believe is very closely connected with what Salomon was referring to as "force." Something within the child that is drawn out and encouraged by caring teachers.

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