Wednesday, January 16, 2013

why woodworking?

There are lots of things kids can be learning in school, so why should woodworking be one? After all, Lego has some wonderful robotic toys that you can snap together and amaze your family and friends, and you can have competitions in the making of them, and have the thing your team has made duke it out with things made by other students and schools.

Perhaps the question, "why woodworking"? can be answered in a review of the objects of educational Sloyd. According to Benjamin Hoffman, 1892 (based on lectures by Otto Salomon), the first object was "to give an indirect preparation for life by teaching branches of certain trades and by imparting a general dexterity to the hand—to train the hand as the obedient servant of the brain." Even though many manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, we still have a need for folks in the work force who learned from an early age to use their hands with skill, dexterity and delicacy.

The second object of Sloyd is to "develop the mental faculties" by giving a "practical direction to mental activity... Man is not only born to think, but also to do. He is a creative animal; he can and must embody his ideas in form." In other words, to create objects of useful and lasting beauty from basic raw materials is essential to our humanity.

"The third object of the Sloyd is to make it a means of intensifying intuitions, thereby giving a clearer insight into the nature of things...Sloyd, in combining the theoretical and practical, by teaching the elements of the arts and sciences, and the method of construction and illustration, aims to excite the intuitive faculty." This intuitive faculty informs the student that all things are deeply connected and nothing is unimportant in his or her understanding of life.

Hoffman states,
"Primarily Sloyd is to be used as a means of formal education—formal as opposed to material. A material education seeks to impart a definite knowledge of things for their own sake. A formal education seeks chiefly to develop the innate mental powers, and selects and imparts knowledge in order to strengthen character, will-power, memory, perception—in short, all of those faculties of the mind which at birth are dormant, and which gradually and through education become to a greater or lesser degree marked characteristics of the individual."
You may think that these qualities and characteristics of a healthy mind can be imparted through snap together parts. But I am of a mind to consider the development of craftsmanship, in which children are learning that each knife stroke matters and can be measured as an expression of caring skilled self.

Today in the CSS wood shop, first, second and third grade students will begin making Mayan Pyramid boxes.

Make, fix and create...

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