Sunday, September 14, 2014

Making T-squares... "what do I do next?"

Prepared stock
 Last Thursday I guided my students, 5th through 11th grades in making "T" squares, they each came up to me, one at a time, asking "what do I do next?" Making T-squares was their idea and was a way that I hope they can carry some of their interest in mechanical drawing home with them for further exploration.

There are three important standards in making a T-square.
  1. The blade  must be straight. I took care of that standard by carefully jointing each one and ripping it to width on the table saw. I advised the students to avoid sanding the edges so that they would remain crisp and straight. 
  2. The head of the square must be designed in such a way that there is sufficient space for the blade to be attached. We met this standard by my checking their designs to make certain that they not cut into the space required. 
  3. The head be attached square to the blade. For this, I had each student attach the head of the square with a single nail and glue, so that it could be clamped in a square position while the glue dried, and that it's squareness could be checked before the glue set. Additional nails can be driven in place after the glue sets, but to put in additional nails while the glue is still wet will likely force the head of the T-square out of square. So to meet this standard, I had to get the students to deliberately restrain themselves, when their natural inclination was to simply drive 4 nails and be done with it.
 If these three standards are met, the T-square should be useful. If not, not.

There are other standards that have to do with the appearance of the T-square that the child can select.
  1. The head of the square can be symmetrical on both sides, or can be deliberately asymmetrical. That would be a standard chosen by the child. 
  2. The arrangement of the nails attaching the blade to the head should be made to appear intentional rather than random. Evenly spaced and symmetrically arranged implies the presence of an attentive and caring human being in the making of it. We call that "craftsmanship." To meet this standard I encourage the students to carefully measure and mark the location of the holes prior to drilling.
  3. How smooth should it be? This is a tool. It will be handled, and tools that are sanded smooth to the touch invite more frequent use.

Kid designed t-squares
One thing I'm wrestling with at school is that my kids are extremely creative to the point that anything goes. They enjoy messing with materials and tools and they are a long way from being able to stand back as a craftsman must and assess their own work from the standpoint of useful beauty.

Another challenge I face is that of getting them to look at their surroundings for the answer, "what do I do next?" Kids have been conditioned to have either teachers or the screens of their devices between themselves and reality when they would be bettter served by simply looking directly at reality and attempting to assess its qualities for themselves.

A new charter high school in Springdale, Arkansas, called "the School of Innovation," is attempting to escape the notion of graduation being based on "seat time." The idea that students can graduate high school based on spending x number of hours sitting at desks during a set range of courses, is archaic and destructive. I've hardly a clue as to how well the new school will do, and whether or not it will perform well enough to overcome the policy maker's objections to such things. Most schools are based on units of seat time called Carnegie units, rather on the student's actual learning. A Carnegie Unit is supposed to represent 120 hours of instruction, but we all know that instruction is not the same as learning. Time spent bored in classrooms while the professor drones on and on is not learning. The Innovative high school is a step in the right direction and I wish them great success.

Sadly, they seem to have no wood shop. They claim to be involved in STEM education but seem to have only digital devices. No saw or hammer in sight.

Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment