Tuesday, May 06, 2014

students at work...

I went by school this morning to deliver green walnut carving blanks and knives to the Clear Spring School teachers to take on the annual elementary school spring camping trip. The students, their teachers and parent volunteers will be camping on the Buffalo National River for two nights. The three days are filled with educational activities planned by the teaching staff, and one part that is always included is knife work. I prepared the carving blanks and sharpened the knives so that they will be ready.

When I arrived on campus, two of the 5th grade girls were busy with shovels and a wheel barrow as they waited for other students to arrive. It was an activity they selected for themselves. They were removing gravel from the inside of the Gaga court and spreading it under other play structures. Inside the Gaga court, the play surface should be packed earth rather than gravel so that the ball gives a good bounce. It is natural for children to be busy if they are given something to do that interests them... That's a simple factor too often overlooked in primary education.

Children get a kick out of doing real things, and the further we estrange schooling from reality , the greater the likelihood we will leave children behind in their learning. The simple rule stated in educational Sloyd was that learning should move from the concrete to the abstract, but not as a permanent thing. We need to continuously anchor all learning in reality that can be tested and measured, and monitor it through means that the children can see growth for themselves.

As the girls shoveled and raked, they could clearly see the task at hand, and they were determined that their time not be wasted. And it would be wise for educators to learn from Comenius' observations upon which modern pedagogy were originally based. Friedrich Frobel called such activities "self-activity", which implies that it is self-directed and self-initiated. Gaga court plans.
Our Clear Spring School students chose to make a 6 sided court, as that was what they were first introduced to. But an internet search shows that they can be 8 sided, and configured in a variety of sizes. To add just a bit of room, our students planned to make their court out of 8 foot and 10 foot 2 x 4s, with four walls being comprised of 8 foot material and two opposing walls made from ten footers. To be certain this size court would be sufficient for play and to be sure it was not too large for our playground, they marked it out with stakes first.

Here’s what you will need to make a court like ours.

6 pieces of ½ in. steel rebar 30 inches long
35 treated 2 x 4s 8 ft.
15 treated 2 x 4s 10 ft.
2 treated 2 x 6s 8 ft.
2 treated 2 x 6s 10 ft.

Prepare the stock for assembly as follows:
Drill 9/16 in. diameter holes at each end of 30 2 x 4’s 8 ft. Measure for both holes from the same end with one at 2 in. and the other at the 94 in. mark.

Next, drill holes of the same size at each end of the 10 ft. stock. Again, measure both holes from the same end, with one at the 2 in. mark and the other centered at 118 in.

Assemble the first layer as follows: Use the ½ in. rebar to connect joints, forming a 6 sided shape, with two 10 ft. 2 x 4s opposite each other. It is important that the frame members criss-cross log cabin style with both ends either up or down, and not with one end up and the other down.

When the six corners are connected, measure from corner to corner across the ends of the 10 foot sections. Adjust the positions of each until the measurement from one pair of corners is the same as the measurement between the other pair. When you get the court squared up in this manner, pound the rebar into the ground about 2-3 inches. This will hold the corners in position as you add 2 x 4s to the stack on each side.

Layer the additional 2 x 4s in place, until you’ve reached a height of 7 and 8 2 x 4s on adjoining sides. You will notice that 3 of the sides are lower than the other three. This is so we can add bench seating on 3 sides, using 2 x 6 treated lumber. We're also adding 2 x 4 blocking at the center of each side between layers to give extra strength. The material list above includes 5 2 x 4s to cut into blocking material.
Make, fix and create...

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