Monday, August 25, 2014

tree cookies...

This is the first week of school at Clear Spring School. The kids are returning for goal setting conferences today and tomorrow, and will begin classes on Wednesday. Tomorrow we move the benches and large equipment into the new Clear Spring School wood shop (its temporary location). All the students and parents are excited that the wood shop will be at the exact center of the school campus, and I am excited about the extra collaboration my new location will offer.

Our first project in the upper elementary/middle school will be to make what one teacher called "tree cookies." By counting along the rings on a piece of wood, you can create an outline of your own life, noting important years, seasons and events.

I tried making large cookies from old walnut, but found that the wood was so old and had been so slow growing that it was hard to count the tiny rings and there were far too many of them to be relevant to the students' own story lines without delving deep into the history of their town.

So I cut into a piece of hackberry that was cut last winter, and found that it has enough annual rings to go back to the birth of each student. To make cuts like this on the bandsaw takes great care, a tight grip and a sled to hold the round stock square through the cut. The tendency is for the round stock to twist, jamming the blade and ruining it. The sled gives a surface against which the round stock can be tightly gripped.

Wood and human beings are both narrative forms. While we tell our stories in the form of words, either written or spoken, trees record their growth in the form of annual rings. Where there's a knot, there had been a branch, and if there had been a drought or season of wet weather, the rings of the tree remember and can be read, just as one might read a book. Our upper elementary school teacher plans to use the tree cookies to get the children to outline their own lives and the important events that took place within them and then to use that outline as the basis for autobiography.

Make, fix and create...

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