Monday, August 16, 2010

What do we learn from physical expression?

What do we learn about the maker of an object when we see, feel and touch the object he or she has made? Is there a difference between seeing and feeling such an object and seeing or feeling something made in massive quantities and without the engagement of a singular soul? What do we learn when we sit in the presence of a musician whose hands are on the strings and whose voice is live vs. listening to a recording on an iPod?

If you can understand these simple differences, you will know what schools should be like.

In Dearborn, we broke down into smaller groups to brain storm and imagine what the school designed as a place of making would look like. There would of course be studios and tools. Each of us drew on our personal experiences, so the design of my school would start from the foundation of Clear Spring School. But as a school even further dedicated to making, I would add the following for consideration as a radical departure from the standard high school education. Each of the four years of high school would be dedicated to one of the 4 classic Greek elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and the exploration of each of these through making would be the means through which important questions would be addressed. The idea is to shift education from being a means through which considered-to-be-important set curricula are force-fed students and upon which they are tested and measured, toward becoming an education in which children are invited to be creative problem solvers under the guidance and influence of artist mentors.

Earth- students would explore the physical qualities of the planet, make things from clay, learn minerals, plant gardens.

Air- students would make music, explore space, sound, light, paint and make stained glass in the exploration of color and design.

Fire- students would learn welding, the making of steel things, become reunited with pottery in the firing of kilns, learn about combustion, diesel, gas engines, heat, chemical reactions.

Water- students would explore boat building, rivers, navigation, the connections between us that build society.

And so, what are the important questions that should be addressed? Maybe there are a few like these: We have just experienced one of the hottest summers on record. Is there a reason for it and for the fires that have come as a result? Clean water is endangered world wide and becoming scarce for people throughout the world. Can we do something about it? How do we develop a society in which diversity is valued? How do we act in the renewal of the earth, the planet we share and upon which our lives depend?

When kids they hit middle school they are ready for important issues and are ready to become engaged in finding answers. Do you have ideas for a school centered on making?

Share through the comments below or via email at right.


  1. Anonymous9:59 AM

    " It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God... "

    —Mahatma Gandhi

  2. Ghandi was a spinner of thread and an advocate of homespun as the British attempted to disable and dominate the people of India through their export of British textiles. Disable the hands, bring them to their knees. Thanks for sharing Ghandi's view of the hands.

  3. Anonymous11:57 AM

    What an excellent plan for a school. A school like that would produce people who could think on many levels and be better citizens of the world.