Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ed Tech Specialists Introduction

I have been invited to present a webinar with Ed Tech Specialists to teachers and school administrators in Michigan and am using this blog post to briefly introduce myself and provide the opportunity for those who are interested to read some of my material in advance. For those who are regular readers, I am one of several educators selected to present ideas in the current round of webinars on educational reform. I believe that the view of the craftsman has become unusual in today's culture, and that my unique experience offers a view that may be useful to others. This particular post may be useful to my regular readers as it provides links to articles that could be hard to find in print. And the two videos embedded below will give a brief glimpse of what we do in the woodshop.

Although my training is not that of an educator, I teach woodworking at Clear Spring School in Northwest Arkansas grades 1-12 with occasional projects at the preschool and kindergarten levels. Clear Spring School is 35 years old, has been called by some “a miracle in the woods” for its unlikely location in a very small town in Arkansas. It is accredited through ISACS and the NAIS, and has been called by some one of the few truly progressive schools in America. While some independent schools are set up to provide an alternative for students in particular communities, Clear Spring School originated as a laboratory to explore new ideas in education that might have impact in time on the nation at large.

I have been a professional woodworker since 1976, have written over 50 articles for various woodworking magazines and 6 woodworking books and 2 DVDs available on and through book stores.

My interest in education began when my mother returned to teaching kindergarten when I was in junior high school. She invested so much of herself in her job that I knew her work to be daunting, and as a young man I never imagined I would become a teacher.

I graduated from a Hastings College, a small Nebraska Presbyterian liberal arts college in 1970 and then after employment with a children’s center in Memphis, Tennessee, and studying pottery at Memphis State University, I moved to Arkansas in 1975 and began my crafts career first as a potter and then woodworker. Much earlier, my parents had ambitions that I might become a lawyer, but when I was restoring an antique Ford during high school and college, a friend had observed, “Doug, I don’t know why you would plan to be a lawyer. Your brains are in your hands.” This comment caused me to examine my goals, and ultimately led me to pursue the life of a professional craftsman and to begin raising fundamental questions based on my own personal observations about how we learn.

Throughout my work as a craftsman I observed the integral role of my own hands in the process of design and the ways hands-on learning gave richness and depth to my career. I also observed that woodworking was not an isolated or isolating enterprise, as I routinely depended upon a knowledge of science, math, economics, history and business in association with the design and execution of my work. My association with Clear Spring School actually began in 1975 when students would visit my pottery studio for arts activities. In 1992 my daughter Lucy began preschool at Clear Spring. In 2000 as the school was planning the addition of a high school, I had been engaged in conversations with wood working teachers, had realized that wood working was seen as no longer relevant in American education, and I proposed to the head of school that we start a woodworking program in association with the new high school. We applied for funding from an Arkansas foundation and started the Wisdom of the Hands program in September 2001.

In late October 2001, in order to establish connections with other like minded woodworking teachers, I attended the first meeting of the New England Association of Woodworking Teacher, and was one of the founding members of that organization. While visiting the North Bennet St. School in Boston, one of the staff members, hearing of my school program asked if I had ever heard of Sloyd, which had played a role in North Bennet St. School’s early history. That conversation set off my curiosity and I began researching Educational Sloyd, learned that its principles involving hands-on learning very closely mirrored my own. I began writing articles about Educational Sloyd for Woodwork magazine, reintroducing this near forgotten method to the American public. My own Wisdom of the Hands Program at Clear Spring School became the means through which I began testing and illustrating the principles of Educational Sloyd.

Over the past years, my Wisdom of the Hands Program, guided by Educational Sloyd transitioned from a high school only program to its current form, using woodworking as an integrated activity in support of the full K-12 school curriculum at Clear Spring School. Here are some download document resources that I am making available for your review:

CV/Resume condensed

Wisdom of the Hands article in Independent School Magazine Published by NAIS, National Association of Independent Schools.
Article in Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, Department of Psychology, City University of New York.

The following are my articles about Educational Sloyd:
Educational Sloyd, Woodwork magazine
Paper Sloyd, Woodwork Magazine
The Sloyd Knife, Woodwork magazine
Making a Child’s Benchhook Woodwork Magazine
Beginning Sloyd, Woodwork Magazine
Nääs: Placing the hands at the center of education, Woodwork Magazine
Nääs: Looking Back, Sloyd Models, Woodwork Magazine
Sloyd article in "Furniture Matters," newsletter of the Furniture Society.

My general school wood shop articles:
Woodcraft article on Clears Spring School Woodworking
American Woodworker article on Clear Spring School
Article in Woodcraft magazine, Back to School
Making Sculpture from the Half Model describes using an ancient boat building technique as a means of creating sculptural forms at Clear Spring School.
Making a crooked knife page one
Making a crooked knife page two

Community and family in the woodshop.
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4

This document was produced by Doug Stowe and Jack Grube for distribution to schools throughout New England: 21 Reasons for School Woodshops

In May, 2006, I presented the following paper, a 21st century personal journey to the heart of Educational Sloyd, at a Sloyd conference at Umeå University in Sweden, and in September, 2008 I presented the paper, Hands, Tools and the Expansion of Intellect at the Crafticulation and Education Conference at the University of Helsinki.These papers in their full view have photos which have been omitted due to file size. You can see photos of regular school activities here on the blog.

Additional documents will be placed online for your use. And other articles and editorials have been featured in Cabinet Maker Magazine and Northern Woodlands. I am currently on the Fulbright Senior Specialists Roster making me available for overseas teaching at the university level.


  1. Doug,

    Thanks for the access to these articles!

    I am particularly interested in the crooked knife articles...but...

    The part one link is broken. I checked the other links and found the following five that do not link to the documents specified.

    1) The Sloyd Knife, Woodwork magazine
    2) Nääs: Placing the hands at the center of education, Woodwork Magazine
    3) Nääs: Looking Back, Sloyd Models, Woodwork Magazine
    4) Making a crooked knife page one
    5) a 21st century personal journey to the heart of Educational Sloyd, at a Sloyd conference

    Thanks again.

  2. Shall, I think I have them fixed. Spelling errors and upper case letters were the problem. I should have checked them myself. Thanks!