Sunday, April 21, 2013


Pre-K puzzle for wood week at CSS
Today in the wood shop, I'm struggling to get caught up on my spring production of boxes and small products. I have inlaid lids for nearly a hundred boxes, and am getting some of the rest of the parts ready in order to be able to fill at least a small order for various things by the end of next week. Between teaching and writing, I've gotten behind and it is hard to catch up. I've been making products like these since the early 1980's so I know what needs to be done next.

In American education we present students with a broad horizon of learning, but do so within the walls of schools with little engagement with the real world. Should it be any surprise that students in time begin to lose interest? Think of it as skipping a stone across a small pond. If you throw it at the right angle, the stone may skip 5 or 6 times or more before landing on the other side or finally sinking in. In schooling we throw kids into classrooms, through lecture halls, hoping they will find reason to go deep, and yet without the depth resultant from hands-on learning, they bounce off. In my quote used at the beginning of Matthew Crawford's book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, I wrote:
In Schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.
--Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
In too many schools students are not required to plunge deep. The angle of incidence at which they are carelessly thrown prevents it as they skip along the surface of education, lose interest, become disengaged from what is offered in classroom, and in some cases become disruptive of the learning of others.

Again, I want to recommend Washor's and Mojkowski's book Leaving to Learn. They state:
"Traditional instruction and assessment cannot bring all students to competence, much less craftsmanship and mastery. To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school. All students need to leave school—frequently, regularly, and of course, temporarily—to stay in school and persist in their learning."
I'm curious, how many of us have done our best learning in schools? If your learning has been like mine, it might make you wonder why we would have schools in the first place.

Ideally, schools would reflect real life, first by bringing real life experiences into the classroom and secondly by pushing kids out into the real world to make deep connections between what they've learned and real life.

On Friday I was invited to present to the 7th through 12th grade students on my least favorite subject of late... the efforts of SWEPCO to put in a superhighway of electricity through either my land or land belonging to my neighbors. It would be about 48 miles of 345 kV power carried by towers 50 feet taller than our tallest oaks, and that could be upgraded to double its initial capacity. Bringing guest speakers into the classroom to engage the students in discussion of real world situations, and to encourage their own passions to become engaged in real life concerns is one good reason to have kids in schools. Instead, classrooms become educational silos where kids slouch bored as professorial one-sided delivery of learning is attempted and seldom fully accomplished.

There is an old saying, "Use it or lose it." And to that I will add, "Use it, or you may never fully understand it in the first place." Again, this has to do with the German terms for learning, wissenschaft, and kenntniss. Wissenschaft is knowledge you acquire through books or being told. Kenntniss is knowledge acquired from personal experience. One without the other is diminished, but when both are present, and children have had the opportunity to go deep in what they've learned, the sky is the limit on what they can accomplish.

This week is "Wood Week" at the Clear Spring Pre-school and Kindergarten. Wood Week allows the kids to learn the letter "W" (which both words start with) and do some study of the natural environment. On Wednesday, my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students will help me to deliver some practical woodworking activity to our pre-k and kindergarten kids. The puzzle set made of native Arkansas woods, shown in the photo above is a thing I made for kids to begin learning "W", their woods, and the diversity of our natural forest environment. There is one "W" wood in the set... Walnut.

Make, fix and create...

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