Monday, January 28, 2013

Preparatory exercises...

New Sloyd Model, a place for keys.
One of the points of confusion in the understanding of Educational Sloyd was the statement, "No preparatory exercises." Did that mean that students were expected to immediately craft beautiful and useful objects, from a first time introduction to a particular new tool? This statement was made as a way of distinguishing Sloyd from the Russian system promoted by Victor Della Vos. In the Russian system students did particular joints in woodworking, but without actually finishing a useful thing. In the Russian system a mortise and tenon joint would not be made into a finished object, and so the exercises in the Russian system were to prepare students for later work, not to make tangible completed objects  that could be useful in the home.

Salomon distinguished between models (things that were to be made) and exercises (procedures performed with specific tools in the creation of the models). The idea was something akin to the invention of Kindergarten in which Froebel distinguished between gifts and the occupations. Salomon suggested that the arrangement of models allowed for increasing complexity in the way various tools were used, and that often the preceding model would allow practice enough.

This requires exercises in the use of marking gauge and chisel.
Today, the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students at Clear Spring School finished  making bluebird houses and I've made a new Sloyd model which I've designed to introduce them to the use of the chisel. There is little more interesting to a child than to have the responsibility to learn the use of a new tool, to handle it safely, with care, and to learn how it gives added creative capacity to their own lives. And so I have been curious in my reading how early Sloyd teachers would have made this introduction.

Would they first put the tool in children's hands and ask them to experience its use, and learn from their own experience how it can be used? I think that the answer here is obvious. The safety of the child comes first. Each will be given individualized instruction. One at a time. Tools are not toys. That is an important lesson that can help a growing child begin to assume greater responsibility. The maker and the beautiful and useful object he or she makes is shaped in form and character at exactly the same time.

The CSS high school students will continue work on their cigar box guitars.

M. Jules Ferry, in opening a School for Manual Training in France in 1883, said:
"In order that the nobility of handwork may be acknowledged, not only by those who engage in it, but by the whole community, we have chosen the surest and the only practical means; We have introduced it into the school. Do you not think that when the plane and file have taken a place of honour by the side of maps and histories, and handwork is taught in a rational and systematic manner, that many old prejudices will die out, and the traditional division into castes will disappear? Social peace will thus begin on the school benches, and future of our beloved nation will be crowned with a glorious halo of unity and concord."
Make, fix and create...


  1. It's amazing to me that a project as simple as that one can teach so many skills. Do the students know that part of what they're learning is for future projects?


  2. I think they do know that they can put what they learn to use in the wood shop. I hope they understand that what they learn can be used elsewhere, too.