Friday, July 06, 2012

Restoring the role of woodshops...

Yesterday I met with interested parties including teachers from around Boston at the North Bennet St. School about restoring woodworking education in Boston Public Schools. The North Bennet St. School has a 3 year pilot program teaching woodworking to kids in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and we met to discuss what would be needed to expand the program. As some of my readers will recall, the North Bennet St. School in the late 1800's played an important role in the introduction of woodworking in American Schools by serving as the home of Sloyd Teacher Training. Many thousands of teachers from across the US received Sloyd Training at NBSS and some of those teachers, like Ednah Anne Rich from Santa Barbara went on to found Sloyd teacher training schools.

The questions are huge. First, should it be a high school program, taking advantage of the renewed emphasis on STEM education? Or should it be for the lower and middle school grades, taking advantage of the relationship between the North Bennet St. School and the history of the origins of Educational Sloyd? Furthermore, is it to be a program in which more students are to be served, or can it be what Gustaf Larsson's sloyd program at NBSS what it once was? An establishment through which to train teachers to teach Sloyd?

In my study of Sloyd, I learned that not only is it about teaching woodworking, it also provides understanding of how we learn, and that its principles are useful to any teacher in developing curriculum and offering the best of learning to his or her kids, regardless of subject. Even my adult box making students learn best when Education Sloyd is kept in mind. For that reason, I would like to see Sloyd offered to all kids. Educational Sloyd's development was hand in glove with the Kindergarten movement which for some time in America brought the best of progressive education to the fore.

In any case, it feels good to be a part of such discussions. Today I will visit Eliot School, and see their students at work. In parallel with NBSS, Eliot School in Jamaica Plain has established an afterschool program in woodworking.

Yesterday as we were discussing the use of the internet to help teachers find support in the development of their programs, I was reminded of the website forum developed by Woodcraft to help woodworking teachers communicate and share ideas. I was pleased to log-on after a long absence and see that it still works and is being used. Please go to and check it out. The photo below , taken from Charles A. Bennett's History of Manual and Industrial Education 1870-1717, shows the inside of Gustaf Larsson's Sloyd Teacher Training School with the graduating claFss of 2013.

Make, fix and create...

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