Of course it can. But educational policy makers are infused with economic stupidity when it comes to education. They prefer to see children as machines that can be programmed to perform on standardized tests, rather than as growing human beings with a basic need to feel deeply connected.
John Amos Comenius, father of modern pedagogy said it thus:
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.Dougherty in his interview notes that schools haven't changed much, but student's situations have. Now instead of making things and building with blocks and real tools and materials at an earlier age, children begin schooling with a tactile deficit. They may have played with all the latest technological devices but were allowed no real world genuinely tactile experiences upon which to build a life in the sciences.
“Most of the people that I know who got into science and technology benefited from a set of informal experiences before they had much formal training,” said Dale Dougherty, editor of Make Magazine and founder of Maker Faire on KQED’s Forum program. “And I mean, like building rockets in the backyard, tinkering, playing with things. And that created the interest and motivation to pursue science.”
The best, most educational, most developmental, and most energizing activity is that of making things. It is also instructive. But we allowed students to be virtually strapped in seats, and chart their development based on number of hours bored in schooling. Comenius, in the 17th century was right, and the solution is for all who have arrived at an understanding of the role of the hands in the development of character and intelligence to take matters into our own hands. Big players like the standardized testing industry have been driving change in American education. We must put our own hands firmly on the wheel. One way to do that is to take our own children and grandchildren to the wood shop and share the creative experience we discover there.
In my own work, I am rather pleased with my progress on the tiny box shown above and at left. When I could not locate brass rod thin enough to serve as hinge pins, I went to the hardware store and bought 12 gauge copper wire. When stripped, it's perfectly proportioned to a tiny box, and can be sanded flush. Best of all, it's a solution I discovered for myself.
Never underestimate the power of discovery to energize student learning.
Make, fix and create. Enable others to do likewise.