Monday, September 28, 2015

bows, arrows, archery, and culture.

In a comment to yesterday's post, Roger reminded of one thing about woodworking that I had forgotten to mention in my long list of 21 ways that woodworking offered particular pedagogical value... that of connecting the child to the long history and span of human culture, which for greatest depth and for the connectedness it offers between generations, must arise anew and be physically refreshed. As reminded by Roger:
Woodworking is universal and its practice connects us with our contemporaries the world over. It also connects us historically to our ancestors.
One of my all-time favorite novelists was a friend here in Arkansas who wrote the Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks,  a historical novel spanning generations and the settlement by Europeans of a fictional town in the Ozarks. The title of Don Harington's book was a play on the connectedness of things. The name Arkansas refers to the shape of an arc. Architecture makes the same reference and what can one say about the Ozarks? Look in the word for its hidden meaning.

Don Harington was a personal friend and visited Clear Spring School to talk about culture and design, and to visit the Osage Indian structure we built like the one he described in the Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks.

If you need a reminder of how woodworking connects us to the natural world, think of the tree, Osage Orange, also called Bois d'arc. The one name refers to both the appearance of the large green fruit and the Osage Indians introduced at the beginning of Harington's tale who lived in arch shaped dwellings formed from bent saplings. The other name from French and locally pronounced Bo dark refers to the traditional use, that of making long bows for archery. One of the local names for the tree is "bow wood." When it comes to connectedness, the engagement of the hands can do that better than idle classroom exercises of mind alone.

Roger mentioned a segment on NPR, an Ice Cold Case, that describes the finding of the prehistoric iceman in the alps, and the investigation that revealed his story, that of making arrows while in flight.

At Clear Spring School we are making bows and arrows, which would seem unrelated to modern society. In fact, most schools would not allow children to make bows. Think of the word archery, and you may make some connections of your own. Both the shape of the long bow and the trajectory of the arrow are the same flight. The story linked above is also about making connections.

Froebel had laid out three important principles: Connectedness, Creativity, and Self-Activity. Of these, schools tend to ignore last two and the first is often lost in artificiality.

In any case, today we will be attaching feathers to the arrow shafts that the students were crafting when Roger visited Clear Spring School two weeks ago.

Make, fix, create, shape the world in your own hands, and enable others to learn likewise.


  1. Sure would like to start a "Froebel Academy" here in northeast Ohio, based on the three principles you mentioned. Any ideas on how to launch this endeavor?

  2. There is a Froebel Society that might be of some help. Mst people don't have any idea who Froebel was, or why his ideas would be of value today. Getting people to understand the basic message would be the first step.