Sunday, December 14, 2014

student boxes...

It has been my belief that no student should be left at graduation having made nothing useful, beautiful or both and worth keeping. It has also been my contention that there is no better useful and beautiful object to make than a wooden box.

Richard Bazeley sent photos of his year 7 and year 9 student boxes. They were done with butt joints in the younger group and hand cut miters in the older set. After the boxes are assembled with thin plywood tops and bottoms, Richard cuts the lid from the body of the box using the bandsaw.

Then the fun began. In Educational Sloyd, it was proposed that student work focus exclusively on craftsmanship and form, and it was suggested that adornment of form by carving and pyrography were means of hiding mistakes.

But in my woodshop, children take delight in coloring, wood burning, and customizing their work. And you can see in Richard's student's boxes, each is unique.

The making of each box unique and an object of student expression is one of the important ways that student learning can be individualized, even in a classroom setting.

N. Christian Jacobsen had said the following with regard to class teaching vs. individualized instruction:
"Should one educator say that twenty can hear what one should hear, and another say not, both can be right. Twenty can hear the same thing but they understand it each in their own individual way.

The psychological preconditions for understanding and the random associations of idea and their effects are impossible for a teacher to reckon had he but one pupil to deal with. But even when he is concerned with more, he can maintain a continuous rapport with all of them, such that each in particular understands him, such that the quick learners and slow learners each have sufficient to do, in so far as acquisition for the first becomes more deep and multifaceted as a result of better prerequisites for understanding, and which gives rise to a more energized work."
Thanks to, Barabara in Stavanger for the ongoing translation of Jacobsen's book.

One of the problems that has faced teachers of the manual arts has been that some students work quickly and some more slowly. Some work fast out of carelessness or lack of understanding. Some work quickly because they have greater skill. Some work slowly because they address the work with great care and seek perfection in it. And yet at the end of the project, all can reach some level of success.

Spending time personalizing work through the use of decorative techniques gives something special for those quick students to apply themselves to, giving the slower students time to catch up, whether their slowness is the result of lack of skill, or their meticulous character.

Richard's students' boxes are an example of the effectiveness of this approach, and allows for the unique creative voice of each student to be seen in their work. During the decorative phase of student work the individualized relationship between the student and instructor comes to the fore, as students ask, "can I do this?" and the teacher says "yes." And the result is what Jacobsen might have called, "more energized work." You can see that each of these boxes is an energized expression of the student's individuality.

If I had a nickle for every time a student asked me, "Can I use the wood burner?" I'd buy a new miter saw. In answer to some early woodworking teacher's concerns that decoration might be used to hide imperfections in the work. Yes, it can. But we must listen to the first precept of Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child. To ignore those individual interests turns the child cold toward his labors and ignores the teacher's greatest resource.

Today I will be cutting small wooden tiles for Froebel's 7th gift.

Make, fix and create...

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