Tuesday, April 30, 2013

free day...

My class load is particularly light this week, with the 7th through 12th grades involved in travel school. The idea of travel school is to anchor what the kids have learned in the classroom to real world activities. It is also a bonding time for the students... a time in which great memories are cast in stone as anchor points in their lives. They are called upon through travel to show great respect for others and themselves and to act in ways that show responsibility and exceptional care.

As one who has traveled with our kids in the past, I can describe the routine and that our students are greeted warmly in the world because the act with manners that others find exceptional. And teachers are always proud of their interests in what they do, and in their behavior as they come face to face with the broader world. At this point, it is surprising or not surprising to me the number of former Clear Spring School students who live in other countries and on other continents. The most amazing thing is that CSS students can do this, even though we are a poor school, in a very small community like Eureka Springs. Even a poor school can offer rich experiences to  kids.

In fact, the best schooling doesn't take a lot of money, and size matters in a way that would surprise many. The size of a school often works against the quality of education, for as schools and classes grow in size, artificialising management and measurement tools must be put in place that take away from the teacher's engagement in  fulfilling the learning needs of individual kids. These measurement and management tools form a barrier of abstraction between teacher and child.

Today in the CSS woodshop, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students were to have a "free day" or "creative day" in which they'd get to test themselves by making what they want. Creative day can be a challenge for me, as each student will have his or her own demands for specific materials. It is always a challenge for some to put into words exactly what they want. I ask for them to describe what they need in thickness, length, and width, and they show me with their hands as I ask more specific questions. "How many inches is that?"  I ask, so I can get them to understand the relationship between size,  measuring, and math. The students reward me for my efforts by showing me things that I never would have dreamed on my own. And regardless of what they've made, they are extremely proud of the work they have seen come from imagination to reality in their own hands.

Fortunately, for me, their teacher had another idea in mind. They are planning their spring camping trip and needed stands to hold their patrol group flags. Despite not getting to do exactly what they wanted, the kids rose to the occasion, did good work and had great fun at the same time. The flag stands are made from 12 inch wide 5/4 birch recycled from a building project. The flags are held erect by 1 1/2 in. pvc pipes fitted into holes drilled with a circle cutter at the center of the base. the project involved finding center, marking the corners at 45 degrees for sawing, drilling the hole, hand planing and sanding edges and then pounding the plastic pipe into place. Plenty to keep kids excited. Creative day will come next week instead.

Make, fix and create...

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