Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What will we make today?

Last year my great niece Olivia visited here in Eureka Springs for Thanksgiving, and we did a few simple projects in the wood shop. We made tops and toy cars and so one of Olivia's first questions this year as they planned their trip was, "What will Uncle Doug have for me to make this year?"

Later in the day, we'll find out., but first I have pancakes to make.

This year Olivia is in Kindergarten in South Florida, and they will likely never consider woodworking as an activity in her school, so this is her chance. I brought home one of the kid sized benches from school and have plenty of tools and materials to keep her busy with a project each day. Last year she was shy about woodworking. This year she perks up when she hears the word woodshop.

As it is growing even less likely with each passing day that wood shops will return to education, the responsibility to preserve the hands-on intelligence of our nation falls in your hands and mine on a case by case basis. Let me tell you, that inviting a child to create under your own watchful eyes is not a burden but a joy.

I spent nearly two years trying to learn Swedish, when a toddler would have grasped as much of the the language I was able to absorb in a few days, so we know the learning capacity of a young mind and the impact of what they learn on who they are.  Sir James Crichton-Browne was called the last of the great Victorians. His views on the relationship between hand, brain and body are described in Gustaf Larsson's book Sloyd, 1902 as follows:
The eminent English scholar and scientist, Sir James Chrichton Browne, tells us that certain portions of the brain are developed between the ages of four and fourteen years by manual exercises alone. He also says, "It is plain that the highest functional activity of these motor centres is a thing to be aimed at with a view to general mental power as well as with a view to muscular expertness; and as the hand centres hold a prominent place among the motor centres, and are in relation with an organ which in prehension, in touch, and in a thousand different combinations of movement, adds enormously to our intellectual resources, thoughts, and sentiments, it is plain that the highest possible functional activity of these hand centres is of paramount importance not less to mental grasp than to industrial success." Again he says,"Depend upon it that much of the confusion of thought, awkwardness, bashfulness, stutterings, stupidity, and irresolution which we encounter in the world, and even in highly educated men and women, is dependent on defective or misdirected muscular training, and that the thoughtful and diligent cultivation of this is conducive to breadth of mind as well as to breadth of shoulders."

"The nascent period of the hand centres has not been accurately measured ... but its most active epoch being from the fourth to the fifteenth year, after which these centres in the large majority of persons become somewhat fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency ever afterwards.

"The small muscles of the eye, ear, larynx, tongue, and hand have much higher and more extensive intellectual relations than the large muscles of the trunk and limbs. If you would attain to the full intellectual stature of which you are capable, do not, I would say, neglect the physical education of the hand."--Sir James Crichton-Browne
Make, fix, create and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

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