Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Thoughts on Education"

John Locke (1632-1704)
John Locke (1632-1704) following Comenius' lead and offering his "Thoughts on Education" recommended carpenter's, joiner's and turner's work as healthy and suitable work for university men and men of business: "For since the mind endures not to be constantly employed in the same thing or way (and) sedentary or studious me should have some exercise that at the same time might divert their minds, and employ their bodies."

Karen in Denmark asked:
"We are thinking of having workshop days once a week and/or half or whole days scheduled regularly where the kids leave the four walls of their classroom, both to explore nature and urban space, but also to visit for example workshops, studios, ateliers. Do you have any recommendations or insights, either about how to create and maintain a network with local workers and artisans, and/or about how to schedule this kind of outward reaching teaching?" How often do the kids you work with go out and visit? How long do you take to prepare them for a visit and how long for them to process afterwards, both in terms of using what they have learned directly with their hands, and in terms of drawing that work into their english, or math, or other classes? Do your students write about these visits?"
Our kids at Clear Spring School spend a great deal of time off campus making visits to various people and places in our community. Visits to the studios of craftsmen and artists are a part of that mix. Our students also visit organic farms, take walks to the public library, make use of local parks for their recreation and attend woodworking classes in our school wood shop.

Our wood shop projects are designed to fit with what the students are studying in their classrooms. The idea is not just that students are exposed to craftsmanship, but also that what they make extends their hands-on engagement in their other studies.  One simple example is making a hand carved pen prior to their learning to write cursive in real ink. By focusing our woodworking activities on making tools that further engage the students hands in learning, our intention is to deepen hands-on learning throughout the school campus.

Yes, our students write about all their activities. But I am reluctant to require them to write about wood shop. I want them to know that the craftsmanship they express is evidence enough of learning without the requirement that they do something contrived and unnecessary and that burdens their enjoyment of the wood shop experience. Obviously, we use math in wood shop, too. We talk about fractions and angles when it is necessary to do so, and with that necessity being made known by the task at hand.

Having our own wood shop is an important part of the Clear Spring School experience. It is wonderful for kids to become familiar with all crafts. It is also important for children to gain greater depth of experience in one craft because that allows them to gain a better perspective on how they learn over time. Things that were difficult become easy through practice. And the experience of learning can be directly applied to anything further that the child might ever want to learn. Becoming better at sawing, or nailing, or measuring, explains the life of the craftsman whatever the medium of choice might be at a later date. To have experience of growth in one material and with one set of tools can help a student gain insight into what all other craftsmen and artists do in the development of their work.

One great thing is that a teacher doesn't have to be a great craftsman to start working with kids in wood. And the same teacher who teaches reading or math can with interest and practice become a good teacher of wood shop, provided the classes are small and some understanding of safety is attained.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your theme about the Oregon trail. It actually made me search the Web for information about it.
    When I was in school we sometimes did something similar about Vikings, where some made models of Viking houses, others made weapons etc. So I would suggest that Karen read your posts about the Oregon trail theme.