Friday, January 20, 2012

odds and ends...

Today we began firing high school student clay projects in a barrel filled with sawdust. The idea is to do a rather primitive wood firing. It is experimental. We will see what results when the fire cools, and will unpack the barrel on Monday. If it works, we may do more. I had been a professional potter years ago, and if it can be as easy as this, I may get back in again to make a few things for fun.

We started with a lining of dried grasses, then laid a 4 inch deep layer of sawdust at the bottom. Each pot was filled with sawdust and wrapped in magazine paper to impart coloring oxides, and common newspaper tied with string. We covered all with layers of deep sawdust. Then a blazing fire of scrap wood was built at the top of the barrel and when it had burned down sufficiently, the lid was placed on to slow the burn and assure a reduction environment.

Also today, we assembled the 4th, 5th and 6th grade fish mobile and hung it in their classroom today.
I was contacted by the ABC News program Nightline, wanting to know my opinion on toddlers being given iPads and iPhones and other technology to play with. My opinion was pretty well stated in an earlier post. 

Also, the following: You may have noticed that Sesame Street is trying to make a big change in their program design to lay greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. STEM. Our schools screwed up badly when they abandoned wood shops and finally people are starting to notice the mess educators and politicians have made of things by failing to teach real things hands-on.

I got an iPad for Christmas. It is a wonderful device. It is so well deigned and so easy to use. Right out of the box with no learning curve and no instruction. But if we are trading high tech for low tech in the education of our children we are making them consumers of technology rather than creative users and inventors of it.

As a nation, we became so worried about students getting their fair share of technology. Parents come to a state of urgency in buying what they think will be their children's glorious futures as technology users. When my daughter started school all parents were worried that if they didn't get computers in the home and in schools ASAP, their children would be left behind. One point that is missed is that computer technology is designed to make things easier and easier for everyone who owns the device or the program. That means that the thrust of things is to no longer need skill or expertise of any kind. That means that for many children, they will no longer have anything to offer of value as any Tom, Dick or Harry with the same devices will offer the same stuff created with less and less effort or skill.

On the other hand, learning to do things that are difficult and challenging offer a far greater sense of creativity, sense of self, sense of self-actualization, and sense of fulfillment.

I get kids in school that have never learned to use scissors. I have had first grade students disappointed in the wood shop because we didn't have computer games for them to play. But children learn to find joy in doing things that can be hard for them, that contain challenges and through which they can demonstrate skill and expertise. It is even more glorious for them when the things they have created are tangible evidence of learning.

I am fine with kids playing with their parents iPad and iPhones, as long as they are given a much healthier dose of real hands-on creativity using real tools. iPads are great entertainment if that's all we want to offer. It is interesting that Buckminster Fuller first began constructing forms based on the triangle when he was in Kindergarten. Being nearly blind, he was working with sticks and peas, and while the other children worked on rectilinear objects that made visual sense  to them, Fuller worked with triangles that had real strength. Frank Lloyd Wright laid down his architectural roots playing with blocks in Kindergarten.

So it would be tragic for our children and our culture to neglect all the other forms of creative technology that actually invite children to do real things, rather than merely participate in the entertainment that our devices so effortlessly provide. Let's not forget that saws, hammers, knitting needles and all other tools of craftsmanship are technology, too.

You might find it interesting that many of the most successful executives from Silicon Valley send their children to a Waldorf School where their exposure to high tech devices is restricted and object lessons in the use of real tools is assured.

My show at the Historic Arkansas Museum opened yesterday as shown in the photos at left and below.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! You have earned that recognition.

Mario