Monday, August 24, 2015

molding boxes day 2

I spent most of the time available to me yesterday writing the text and captions for the 6th completed chapter of my tiny boxes book, and then turned my attention to what will become an 8th. I say "an 8th" because this chapter is an easier one that will fall more towards the beginning of the book. This particular box is a bit too ornate for my tastes but may appeal to others. Should I abandon it or proceed? I may try to find a simpler router pattern to make the box less visually complex.

In either case, the fun part is figuring out how to make a box, and then to share it with others, that they may engage in their own hands-on learning and creativity.

Programs about "how its made" are popular on TV. But watching something made in your own hands should be more popular as it is infinitely more rewarding. The following is from Woodrow Wilson in response tothe Philidelphia Centennial Exposition (1876) as quoted in Vandewalker's book, The Kindergarten in American Education:
"Throughout all the long hundred years in which they had been building a nation, Americans had shown themselves children of utility, not of beauty. Everything they used showed only the plain unstudied lines of practical serviceability. The things to be seen at Philadelphia, gathered from all the world, awakened them to a new sense of form and beauty. Men knew afterward that that had been the dawn of an artistic renaissance in America, which was to put her architects and artists alongside the modern masters of beauty, and redeem the life of the people from its ugly severity."
We have, it seems, struggled to balance the two sides of American education. Is it to serve ugly severity by crowding too many children into classrooms and making the lives of teachers and children unbearable and ineffective, or do we follow the Kindergarten, Frobelian solution, and seek beauty in all that we do?

Wilson was mistaken in thinking that the exposition was the awakening to beauty. The Shakers had successfully integrated, form, function, practicality and beauty long before the exposition.

The most interesting thing is that by paying attention to the needs of children, and by listening to and responding to what their natural interests and inclinations are, students learn faster, at greater depth and with longer retention, than will those who are restrained passively at desks. We learn from experience and experience, hands-on is the best master of education. And what better way can be found to engage hands-on than by shaping wood?
The wood is teaching you about itself, configuring your mind and muscles to the task required of them. To carve is to be shaped by the wood, even as you are shaping it. David Esterly, The Lost Carving.
Make, fix, create. Encourage others to do likewise.


  1. The Italian wood and stone carvers who came to Buffalo in the late 19th century ended up doing outstanding work on the mansions of the wealthy. The mansions are still around, inspiring awe in anyone who understand the craft involved. And those craftsmen used the same skills to work on their own much smaller houses, where people still live, as opposed to the mansions that are offices or museums.


  2. We have a tour home that was transported here from Joplin where it was to be destroyed. The interior is all hand-carved and tooled walnut, oak and cherry, and it would cost an absolute fortune today to get trained carvers to do that level of work. Now it's enough of a challenge just to keep that level of work from being destroyed by modernization.

  3. I should say that the tour home is in Eureka Springs. I did not mean to imply that it is ours.