Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Being more careful not to depress...

I was told by a reader that this blog can be rather grim. Yesterday I asked one of my students whether he preferred video gaming to real life. It was a head scratcher for him. And of course in his real life, video gaming plays a large part. Then I asked him which he preferred, video gaming or wood shop, and his answer was without hesitation. Wood shop. Kids know the difference between doing real things and the pretense that we offer them instead.

My point is not to depress my readers with all the things that we are doing wrong, but with how easy it might be to do things right.

Comenius (1592-1670) had said that:
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them. (emphasis mine)
In this statement of easily observable fact, Comenius laid out a simple strategy that we avoid in schooling. He stated the heart of the matter, and the great secret of effective learning. Children learn by doing, and we choose to waste that most natural resource by choosing instead that they do nothing. Our schools attempt stifle their natural inclinations and commandeer the direction of their growth, when those inclinations are our most powerful but wasted resource.Yesterday, our teachers were working with the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, and their hands-on project in the study of ancient history was to build a model shaduf.

They had struggled with their models the first day, using clay and sticks. I told the teachers they were welcome to make use of the wood shop, and when the kids learned that they had access to tools they nearly bolted out of their class room and into the shop. They could hardly wait to use wood and tools to build what they had already tested in their imaginations.

There is little more joyful than watching children engaged in doing real things, whether it's in the kitchen or wood shop. And the message of this blog may be depressing only if we choose to do nothing about it.

The photos show two different ways of using the non-dominant hand  (in my case left) to hold the lathe tool. The one at the top is using the hand as a fist, which would be described as a power grip. The  second image would be described as a "precision" grip. In this case, the "power" grip is the safer hand position in that it keeps the fingers and thumb safely blocked by the tool rest from engagement with the spinning stock.

Make, fix and create...

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