Friday, September 25, 2015

repeating myself...

Some have noted that I write in the blog every day.  You need not read every day. In fact, it might be better if all of my readers were to simply take what is written here in one day and take it to heart and put it to use in transforming American education at all levels, pre-K through university post-graduate degrees. The message is simple, so I repeat myself. We learn best and to greatest lasting effect when we are engaged hands-on.

There are a lot of people working in a similar direction. We have maker spaces happening is some schools and libraries. We have PBL (project based learning) happening is some schools. In the meantime, there seems to be a missing link in that few fully grasp the hands' potential in educational transformation even though we all know that we ourselves have learned best and at deepest levels when our hands have been engaged in doing real things.

When we have accepted the role of the hands in educational effectiveness, we begin to understand why wood shop is important, why maker spaces are a must, and why children would be best served by learning chemistry, science, math, music and even history and literature hands-on.

Learning is the most natural of human functions and yet through schooling, we make students resistant to it. They sit bored in classrooms: the countdown? over 16,000 hours before graduation. But if kids are allowed to get out from behind desks and to do real things, schools would be re-energized,  students would retain learning longer and we would alleviate the depression that often accompanies being stuck in something over which we have no control. Even teachers would have fun in school if the hands were set free under an imperative that schools engage in the exercise of craftsmanship.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop I'll meet with the student building club. The school needs a new composting bin to build soil for the school garden and that would be a good beginning project, as it involves cutting wood, and assembling it into a useful structure.

Make, fix, create, and make certain that others learn likewise.


  1. So the challenge is how to resolve the missing link.

    I have some questions for you that may provoke thought.

    Do you believe that all the faculty at Clear Spring School recognize the value of the hands in education?

    And if so, or for those that do...why do they get it? Why do they think hands-on experience making real things is so essential to education? (it would be very interesting to read/hear each one of the faculty's answer to that question in their own words)

    Is it a culture thing? Is it because of the culture in and around Clear Spring School?

    What would it take to replicate what Clear Spring School does and be successful?

    Or, what would it take to double the size of student count of Clear Spring School?

  2. The faculty at CSS all know the mission of the school, which places a direct emphasis on hands on learning. We are a small school with a great deal of support and mentoring going on between staff members. The staff that we have clearly recognize the value of hands on learning. We see it at work and share examples with each other.

    We are in unique geographic place, and the character of the school grounds make them ideal for outdoor education and a more relaxed teaching style. So the setting of the school and the staff of the school are important to its success.

    What would it take to double the size of the enrollment? We would need another classroom and one more teacher. We currently have vacancies in lower and upper elementary that would allow us to add about 15 students. While we have the lowest tuition rate of any ISACS accredited school, we would need to increase financial assistance to expand the numbers. Even though we have a low rate, we are in an area in which the tuition is difficult for many parents.

    So, yes, I think you can say its is a culture thing, in that we have a school culture that does not necessarily translate immediately other sites. But I also think that the hands offer a starting point for school reform. It would not come quick and it would not come easy. Some teachers would rebel against the loss of their ivory towers when they were expected to engage in cross-disciplinary studies.

    So the thing to do is set an ideal, but also build in stop gap measures that lead you in the right direction. That's what we did in 2001, when I started woodworking at CSS and we then built from there.