Readers frequently ask if I have a set curriculum for them to follow. I wish it could be as simple as that.
There are actually three things that I try to balance in developing woodworking lessons for kids... what I want the kids to learn to do, what the other teachers want the students to do in support what they teach, and what the kids want to do to support their own interests which are often different from mine, and different as well from the objectives of their classroom teacher.
The interesting thing is that at the start of a program, other teachers won't necessarily know the value of woodworking projects and the value has to be demonstrated to them. In some cases teachers have not been challenged to consider correlating their materials with what is taught in other classes and may not understand the value of it. Even when they do understand the value, they often don't understand the processes well enough to know whether or not what they propose fits with the level of skill and ability at various ages. At the beginning, kids really don't understand what it takes to do various things either, and so while they may want to do their own thing, unrestrained, they will soon learn that there are restraints formed by their own lack of understanding in how tools work, how materials work in response to those tools, and the various steps required and the order in which they must be applied to gain the results they intend. In other words, they often lack the ability and understanding necessary to be successful at at making the objects they intend.
At the start, it's useful to be assertive, with the woodworking teacher coming up with his or her own projects timed to other teachers' coverage of various lesson plans and also geared to be age appropriate and skill appropriate to the kids. Kids will understand the growth of skill, and the fact that new skills can be applied to other things.
I think the most useful information on designing a program comes from Educational Sloyd which in turn came from progressive education and Kindergarten of all things, and actually provides insight into all other things that children should learn in school.
- Start with the interests of the child.
- Move from the known to the unknown,
- from the easy to more difficult,
- from the simple to the complex and
- from the concrete to the abstract.
The following is from the Paradise of Childhood and describes the origins of what for Friedrich Froebel was a great awakening:
"Traveling through the country," says Elizabeth Harrison, 'Froebel listened to the cradle songs and stories which the German housewives told to their children. He noticed how the little children are constantly in motion, how they delight in movement, how they use their senses, how quickly the observe and how they invent and contrive. And he said to himself, "I can convert the children's activities, energies, amusements, occupations, all that goes by the name of play, instrumental for my purpose, and transfer play into work. This work will be education in the true sense of the term. The conception I have gained from the children themselves; they have taught me how I am to teach them.'"In wondering where Sloyd should go in the future, it is important to remember its roots in the Kindergarten method. Uno Cygnaeus and Salomon and all the early proponents of Educational Sloyd saw it as the best means to carry the Kindergarten methods into the upper grades. Learning was to be fun, driven by the interests of the child, and yet educators seem insistent on making education a dismal experience that must be endured... just as for so many folks, work is a dismal thing. As a woodworker, I have seldom found it to be so.
Make, fix and create...