Thursday, April 30, 2015

which is his life...

The following is from Alfred North Whitehead's essay on education:
Every intellectual revolution which has ever stirred humanity into greatness has been a passionate protest against inert ideas. Then, alas, with pathetic ignorance of human psychology, it has proceeded by some educational scheme to bind humanity afresh with inert ideas of its own fashioning.

Let us now ask how in our system of education we are to guard against this mental dry rot. We enunciate two educational commandments, “Do not teach too many subjects,” and again, “What you teach, teach thoroughly.”

The result of teaching small parts of a large number of subjects is the passive reception of disconnected ideas, not illumined with any spark of vitality. Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible. The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life. From the very beginning of his education, the child should experience the joy of discovery. The discovery which he has to make, is that general ideas give an understanding of that stream of events which pours through his life, which is his life.
The passionate protest at this point must become a revolution enacted against education itself, as it has become mired in standards, and too often a smorgasbord of ideas with little served to greater depth. When in schooling do children become engaged to such great depths that their passions extend beyond themselves? At Clear Spring School, I have been helping students with demonstration projects in Physics, keeping the shop and tools available to them as they explore various ideas.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our hands are tied...

Our hands are tied. Its what we say when we recognize our powerlessness in a situation. It's what we've all felt as we watched events play out in the Baltimore riots. There are many who see the color of the faces of rioters and find vindication for their racism and smug feelings of superiority. They will likely see and use the riots as a rationale for tighter control and greater police presence. It will become fuel for their righteous indignation. There are others who see more clearly into the full scope of the situation.

Chief Operating Office of the Baltimore Orioles John Angelos made the following statement after protests on Sunday by thousands outraged by the killing of Freddie Gray. The protestors had reached Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and the Red Sox. The fans were initially told not to leave the stadium.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite has shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
The big picture, and the bigger story that needs to be told is a simple one,. It's one that lies no further from each of us than the hands that dangle too uselessly at the wrist.  We thought that by freeing the hands from toil, we would be made clean, but instead we were made stupid. The hands are the instruments of human creativity and intelligence. Instead of putting the hands in service toward the development of mind and creativity in schooling. We (as a nation) chose to still the hands and to use schooling as a warehousing operation in which kids were kept isolated from futures of creative engagement.

Do you remember the past 40 years in which we were to sacrifice American manufacturing to foreign nations as we entered a "service economy" and then an "information age?"

Can people not see the stupidity of our situation? We as human beings, by our genome and the circumstances of life are instructed and compelled towards creative engagement. When the flow of that creative engagement is damned by schooling in which students are held captive, and under tight control, at some point, things will come loose with anger directed toward the repressors.

I know and you know how these things go. The angry black youth will be blamed by most, not the system of injustice that feeds the rich and famous. But there is a fix. It calls not for revolution in the streets, but for revolution in schools and in community life.The call to fix things is something you can take up in your own hands by teaching others to make.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead was a British Mathematician and philosopher whose famous work  Principia Mathematica was co-written with his student Bertand Russell. That book is one of the classics of the 20th century.

And so, where are the great thinkers of this day? We seem to have been overrun in the sphere of education by middle management.

Whitehead had said in his essay on the Aims of Education,
In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call “inert ideas”—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.
That's where the hands come into play, for as Charles H. Hamm had noted, the mind seeks the truth but the hands discover it. Utilizing, testing, and throwing into new combinations is what the hands do best under most circumstances.

Whitehead had described a learning in depth process whose levels started with romance of the idea, then the development of precision in the application of that idea, culminating in what he called "generalization" or the ability to leap toward application into fresh territory. I can explain the hand's role in this process, and it is a relationship I will explain in a subsequent post.

This Friday we have a Wisdom of the Hands fundraiser, 6-8 PM in the home of Susan and Jim Nelson, here in Eureka Springs. If you are interested in attending, you must RSVP. You may do so through my email address in the sidebar at upper right.

As you can see in the photo I am making progress on the bent wood boxes, adding part of the wooden hinge to each of the lids. Next will come the hinge parts affixed to the back of each box.

Make, fix and create...

getting serious about math...

The following is from Number Sense and Nonsense, Understanding the Challenges of Learning Math by Nancy Krasa and Sara Shunkwiler
Although the ingredients of age-appropriate informal math education are becoming clearer, little is yet known about what constitutes age-appropriate formal math education. As the National Mathematics Advisory Panel noted, in their 2008 report, no scientific data yet support one curriculum over another. Moreover, there has been little scientific evaluation of mathematical pedagogy.
Lids for bent wood boxes
Given the lack of evidence as to which approach works best, you can see the mess we are in.  Schools may inconsistently pick and choose between various methods. Students moving between schools, or even between classrooms and grade levels in a school, can find a variety of instructional techniques applied, with little correlation assured. Add to this that students within grade levels in the same school with the same methodology applied will not all be at the same developmental level. If a student misses something along the way, for instance, multiplication, or fractions, there's no easy way to catch up to the level of fluency enjoyed by his or her peers.

Since schooling is in part a sorting operation in which some students are pushed into the sciences, some into academia, and some into trades, from a societal standpoint, it may not have made much difference before whether all students were brought to a proficiency in math. But why should some students be left behind if there is some means through which all might be brought to a higher level of interest and confidence?

We have adopted a new curriculum at Clear Spring School that helps us to make certain that no child is bored and that no child is left behind. To top it all off, it's hands-on. (Which should come as no surprise, for that is truly how we learn best.) The results of using Math-u-see have been good on two levels. First students are enjoying math, and secondly, their progress and confidence are showing up in other classes, for instance, science and wood shop.

A third point that should be considered it that if students have been taught in various methods, it is difficult to determine whether math difficulties are the result of poor teaching, or of some other kind of actual disability, that would be easier to diagnose and treat if teaching methodology as the cause could be ruled out.

In my primary school wood shop class on Tuesday, we were using a tape measure and pencil to mark wood to length. In the past I had trouble getting first and second graders to recognize fractions on the tape measure. On Tuesday they immediately understood the position 5 1/2 in. on the tape. I was surprised and asked our lead math teacher why. I learned that they had been studying odd and even numbers and had learned that you could divide even numbers into two equal groups, but that in dividing odd numbers one would be left over and needed to be cut in half.

So without understanding fractions yet, they understood the half inch mark on the tape.

By having a consistent approach, at least within our school, as students progress from one math level to the next, independent of grade level we allow students to move freely at their own pace and in conformity to their level of development. This can be accomplished by having all students do math at the same time, taught by every available member of staff. Would that work in a public school setting as well?

As a woodworker, I ask, how many wood working errors are math errors that could be avoided if we each had greater confidence in math? In the wood shop, I've begun putting lids and hinges on bent wood boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

food for thought.

Finland has one of the highest rates of school literacy, and one of the very lowest amounts of time spent in instruction. That indicates a high level of efficiency in teaching, and a low waste of student time in boring and repetitive tasks. As I've noted before, by delaying reading until age 7 or 8, the Finns surpass American readers in 30% less time. Add to that the fact that Finns between ages of 7 and 15 receive fewer hours of instruction than the international average, and we can see that there are some lessons to be learned.

Here in the US, we have requirements that students spend over 1000 hours in school each year, with the exact standards being set by the various state boards of education. For instance here in Arkansas, public schools are required to have 170 days of instruction with 6 hours of classroom time per day. That's a whopping amount of time spent with too little to show for it. This information flies in the face of those who think we'll fix American education by extending school hours and having more of it.

In reading and math, students are routinely passed along from one grade level to the next beyond their level of comprehension. Repetition for those who have missed something, means boredom for the quick learner.

The 10,000 hour rule states that it commonly takes 10,000 hours of intense engagement in something to attain a level of mastery. By the time students in American public schools pass through to graduation, they will have spent over 12,000 hours with no mastery in sight.... that is, unless they have taken the time on their own to develop their own interests and intellectual resources, or unless you consider mastery of sitting complaisantly at desks a worthy goal of learning.

Adding bottoms to bentwood boxes
So, what else do children do that might offer hope? It has been estimated that by the time a child reaches the age of 7, they will have spent the equivalent of one full year of 24 hour days watching screens of one kind or another. By the age of 8, they will have surpassed the 10,000 hour threshold while having accomplished very little in the area of expertise.

So, between schooling and screen time, and schooling screen time as schools become more and more reliant on passive on-screen learning, we're going nowhere fast.

What's the fix? When I visited at the University of Helsinki, I also visited the university wood shop where masters degree candidate Kindergarten teachers were learning to teach wood working. It is a shame we do not have such high standards in the US.

I have been giving some thought to how Math-U-See might be used in a public school setting. The interesting thing is that it is designed for successful teaching by parents, and therefore, trained teachers are not essential, particularly in the lowest levels. If a public school was to do what we do at Clear Spring School, and have all the students do math at the same time and at the level of their success, all members of staff could be involved to make certain all students have the individualized attention required to attain mastery of each level and advance to the next. That would present new opportunities for staff collaboration, and student mastery of math.

Make fix and create, and provide our children the opportunity and encouragement to do likewise...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

new bent-wood boxes

 As you can see, I'm making significant progress on my new design of Scandinavian bent wood boxes. My Norwegian ancestors would be pleased, and this is great preparation for my summer classes. Each box will be a slightly different shape, and each will be clearly hand crafted. What could be more lovely than a unique box, each invested with both creativity and ancestry.

This weekend, the Eureka Springs Indie film is being held and I happen to be in two films. The first one is about my Wisdom of the Hands program and was financed by the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas Department of Humanities. The second film is feature length and is called Eureka, The Art of Being. It is about the artists of Eureka Springs and the arts erving as the foundation of community. Both will be shown tomorrow.

There are two ways in which American public schools are graded. One is that letter grades are assigned as a means of reporting and measuring progress. The other is that student progress from one number grade to the next as a description of where they are in the educational process. At Clear Spring School, we are moving into an ungraded position, in which students will not be in a grade, nor will they be assigned grades. The point is to escape artificial constructs and do authentic assessments that represent students having done real things.

Yesterday the lead attorney for my small environmental organization, Save the Ozarks, made a final filing before the Arkansas Public Service Commission asking for a rehearing to demand that the Commission side with Save the Ozarks and compel the utility, SWEPCO, to pay legal fees. The utility was obviously waiting for us to make the next move, as within 7 minutes, they had filed their own motion for a rehearing to demand that damning evidence of their misbehavior be stricken from the docket and from being heard by the Arkansas Court of Appeal when we make our next move. We are also drafting a settlement proposal that would open the door for the utility to adopt a more generous stance toward our local community.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Math we see.

Testing Newton's second law of motion.
This year at Clear Spring School we adopted a new math program intended for home school students. It takes the students hands-on through a series of workbooks and manipulative objects, starting from the very basics through Algebra, at their own pace.

The program is called Math-u-see. The program we've used to implement it at all grades is unique. Each classroom teacher, regardless of subject has taken on supervision of a level. With math-u-see, you don't have to be a college math major to teach the more basic levels. So we have math at exactly the same time for all students, and they can proceed from one level to another by simply moving from one group to another. In other words, students can work at their own level and at their own pace and become fully fluent in one area before moving on to the next. No student is ever moved beyond their mastery and no student is bored.

The result has been that the students have learned to love math, and have been asking that they be allowed to continue Math-u-see during the summer months. The levels are not strongly identified with grade level, so there is no stigma (nor is there glory) attached to the student's particular math level.

For some schools, and for many students, this approach to math could be revolutionary.  I believe I am already seeing results in very simple things... like the ease with which my students in first grade can measure and find the half inch marking on a tape measure.

One clear point is that math is basic to so many other things. I also witnessed a clear result of our student's new math proficiency and confidence as our upper elementary science students tested Newton's second law of motion as shown in the photo above.

Make, fix and create...

Bent wood boxes...

Copper tank for boiling thin strips of wood.
 I have begun making a few small bent wood boxes of a new design. These are  inspired by Scandinavian bent wood boxes (Tiner), but will have one flat side and shop made wooden hinges. I start by boiling strips of wood in a copper tank, using a hot plate as the source of heat.

When the wood has softened enough to bend without breaking, I roll it into shape and clamp it while it cools and dries. Tomorrow I will fit backs, and use copper tacks and Gorilla Glue to secure the back corners. Then I'll make bottoms, lids and hinges to fit.

Bent wood for small Scandinavian boxes.
I plan to make some very small ones for the tiny box book, but in the mean time, this offers me some practice for my classes this Summer in making Scandinavian Bentwood boxes.

Yesterday in school wood shop, I introduced a visiting student to the lathe, and helped various students with personal projects including Ozrick's knife.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

letter grades...

 This last week letter grades were assigned to every public school in my state of Arkansas  based on a measurement scheme of academic progress. Of course there is incredible stupidity in that. Not all children start at the same position in the race. Some are handicapped by poverty, and by social irregularities like crime and abuse. Most often these cases of tragic irregularities are clustered in smaller geographic settings, and the schools in those areas do their best at enormous cost to the teachers involved. To all this, I say, eliminate the poverty and see what happens next.

This story in the following link is of a school near my own town in Arkansas: Giving Excellence a D: when school accountability grades fail. In it we observe the consequences of the continuing application of the administratively progressive mindset described in the paper I linked earlier in the week, "How Dewey Lost." That paper explores David Snedden's ideas for educational reform, as managed from the top down. It involved school grades, and test scores as a means of managing schools to become more like industrial concerns.

Here in Eureka Springs, the public middle school and high school were given a "B" and a "C" was awarded at the elementary level. Clear Spring School as an independent school was not subjected to grading.

Yesterday I turned ring boxes and managed to take enough photos of the process to complete the first chapter of a new book, making Tiny boxes. Years ago, when told I needed to write something, my mother suggested that it is best to write about something that I know. That would be good advice for others to adhere to. Develop knowledge first and then write. Learn first and then share, rather than share ignorance like a social disease.

In my own case it works to my advantage. I make things, take photos of the actual process and then write about it from the standpoint of actually having done so. For others, not so well, as they can get carried away despite their lack of understanding. For instance, my first and second grade students brought me a book they were reading that involved a wood carver. They liked the book, but one student pointed out a serious error in it. The craftsman was carving delicate feathers on an angel wing, and was using a large gouge and mallet to do it. His mallet was drawn back for the next strike. My student noted, "If he hits there like that, he'll break the whole wing off." If the illustrator had actually done some real carving first, such an error would have easily been avoided.

Is it not amazing that my students would have more real knowledge about how to do real things than the illustrator, author, editors and publisher of a book intended for children? What kind of letter grade can you give that?

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

today in the wood shop...

This is earth day and what can be a better way to celebrate our dependence on the earth's abundance and our responsibility to protect it than by making something lovely and useful from wood? When we use wood to create beauty, we instill in others a sense of its value and may help to shape their willingness to offer protection to our forest resources.

I have been very excited about making tiny boxes, and wake up in the middle of the night thinking about various designs. The possibilities are without limit and as I have been at this a while, I have a large repertoire of techniques and styles at my fingertips to excite my creativity. I also have an advantage as a teacher of watching my students solve problems in woodworking. Their creativity is often a source of amazement to me. I learn from the experience of watching them create...

Today I will turn a couple satellite ring boxes on the lathes at school, and if a new router bit arrives in the mail, I'll continue making pen boxes. I found that my old core box bit that I bought over 30 years ago is a bit dull for the task. So a replacement is on the way.

The tiny box that has me most excited at the moment is one made with bent wood and with a wooden hinge. Once I get a box like this clearly in mind, it is difficult to set it aside until I have made it in real life.

Yesterday one of my students finished her shoe rack. It is completely of her own design, and while it is not something you would find in a furniture store, it's not something you could find in a furniture store. It's unique, and it was taken home with great pride, as it was something she made by hand, and labored upon with great care.

One of the functions that woodworking can serve in schools is that of allowing students to learn as they seek real solutions to tangible problems. If you've several pairs of shoes to keep neat and want a rack to keep them organized? Take a saw, a hammer and some 1x4's and make it. But the real value of the object made by the student is not the object itself, but is in the heart and mind and capacity of the student.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

boys, knives and turned boxes...

Making boxes for pencil, scissors and cards
I went for a walk last evening, and found two of my students on a front porch hunched over a grinder as sparks flew. One wore an over-sized pair of glasses to protect his eyes as he took his turn shaping a knife from solid bar stock.

I must take some responsibility for the situation, for they are my students, and I have played a role in shaping them as makers, just as they themselves were shaping the 1/4 in. thick bar stock to reflect what they had drawn from their own imaginations. Of course I can't take too much credit for the impulse to make and give shape the materials at hand is an important part of the human experience. We can ignore it. We can repress it. Or we can give it power and release and watch the child's growth as he or she takes charge of it.

Finished desk boxes.
Satellite ring box
Today, we continued the experience of crafting wood into useful objects.

On the tiny box book, I have been making very small satellite shaped ring boxes on the lathe, turned from maple.

On another interesting note, manufacturers are beginning to claim that we no longer own the things that we buy, and that therefore we are not entitled to fix them, particularly when it comes down to the software that makes them run. The idea seems to be a thing they have learned from the sale of software. By buying something you will have a license to its use but not the right to fix it should it go awry.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 20, 2015

The industrialization of American education.

I have been reading How Dewey Lost: The victory of David Snedden and Social Efficiency in the Reform of American Education by David F. Labaree. It is really the story of how a nut case's vision of schooling came to rule for most of a century, over the more thoughtful and appealing ideals of John Dewey. Dewey won the debate, but the proponents of industrialized efficiency got their way. Those who have been watching the current round of top down schemes to re-shape American education, may see a connection.

David Snedden's ideas were strikingly similar to what Woodrow Wilson proposed when he was president of Princeton University and before he became president of the United States.
We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
Snedden got so carried away with Wilson's vision that he proposed special isolated schools for every conceivable occupation. And so with Wilson's signing of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1918 which granted funding to only certain kinds of manual arts training, it became the purpose of education to engineer and industrialize society along pre-existing class lines. Tied up in this story are the psychology of G. Stanley Hall and the standardized testing movement.

In reading this paper, I have suddenly become concerned for Finland. In their new reform, are they turning away from a successful model of pedagogically progressive education for one that is driven by administration? That appears to be the case.

Thanks Knud for sending this paper my way. It is one that everyone interested in education should read, learn from and feel shocked by.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

moving beyond the artificial construct.

Finland is embarking on a noble adventure as I described yesterday. Their idea is to teach by topic, rather than subject so that an integrated theme of exploration will serve as a centerpost with the traditional subjects like math, science, reading and history gathered round.

My head of school, Charles Templeton, told the following story:
Once there was a school for animals. The school board was comprised of Ms. Eagle, Ms. Wren, Mr. Squirrel, Mr.Shark, Ms. Perch, Mr. Toad, and Ms. Moodiwart (an elderly mole, the digging kind not hot peppers with chocolate). The Head of school wanted to change the curricula so that the young animals would be equipped to forage for food upon graduation. As you can imagine, somewhat of a row soon began. Ms. Eagle and Ms. Wren wanted flying to be taught to all the students and have it made mandatory for graduation; Mr Squirrel thought that hopping from one tree to another should be a mandatory credit; Mr Shark and Ms. Perch thought it unfathomable that no one had thought to add swimming as a mandatory class; Mr.Toad thought hopping was a good idea but not from tree to tree and he also sided with Ms. Perch and Mr. Shark on the swimming idea; and finally. Ms. Moodiwart turned toward a wall to address the board (moles are rather blind) and said, "Can none of you see that digging is the most important skill that any of our young people will take with them into the future?" So a new curricula was added. So Ms. Eagle and Ms. Wren's children barely passed flying because they took that class right after their hopping and swimming classes. Mr. Shark and Ms. Perch's children excelled in swimming, but could not stay in the air for long but because a coach was teaching the class they managed to pass. In hopping class they flopped more than hopped. Of course Mr Toad and Mr Squirrel's children could hop to China and back and aced their hopping class, but Toad had to cheat in flying class by having one of the birds fly him around. Then there was poor Ms. Moodiwart's grandchild, who failed miserably in every class, except for digging. He was an Olympian in digging class. So, it is pretty easy to guess what happened at the end of the year, everyone wanted the curricula changed, again.
The problem with most adult plans for education is that they fail to keep the child's interests and natural capacities in mind, and then for the sake of efficiency, adults erect artificial constructs to guide the children and their interests where the adults think the children need to go.
"Theory," says Vives, "is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand, is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility." Since this is so, we should diligently seek out a method by which the young may be easily led to the practical application of natural forces, which is to be found in the arts. -- John Amos Comenius (1592-1670)
So what shall adults practice in school? The challenge is that of understanding the limitations of a theoretical approach and putting the art of teaching into a practice form. Then, to make matters worse, Mr Templeton informed me that Ms. Gazelle has recently joined the school board. Perhaps that will solve the problem. All would surely agree  that all animals should be taught readiness for the eventual elephant stampede. Charles told me that his version of the story was based on one by George Reavis. Perhaps the most appropriate consideration would be to engage the children safely in the challenges of real life. Putting the hands to work does that.

 I have begun work on a book about making tiny boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Finland moves forward.

Chairs grown in chair farm.
While the US public school education languishes in the middle of the pack, Finland, the usual front runner in the PISA tests is taking a major step in education reform. Instead of teaching isolated subjects, they will move to a system similar to that long used by Clear Spring School, in which a topic or theme will be addressed through all the various school disciplines. Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system.
Integrated thematic instruction allows classes to use the interconnectedness of various disciplines to advantage in making the learning relevant to kids. With integrated studies students can see how all the various subjects inter-link to form the reality in which they live and will work. With educators from around the world streaming to Finland over the past few years to examine their success, this step forward has taken educators from around the world by complete surprise. No doubt, educators will be booking flights to Helsinki to see the new model in action. But they could save money by visiting Clear Spring School.

The point of Finland's change is to get students up out of their seats to utilize their own insatiable interests to drive learning forward. Finnish students already beat American students in reading and math in 30% less time and spend less time sitting at desks than students in any other nation in Europe. So this change is rather astounding.
Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union - which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.
I have not heard as yet whether they plan to keep their wood shops that have been a part of Finnish Schooling since the middle of the 19th century. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

What do you think of chairs being grown instead of crafted? The image above shows a chair farm in the UK. To make a chair grow to a certain shape, small trees are put into rigid constraint, pruned on a regular basis and forced to grow just so. Does that sound a bit like American education?

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 17, 2015

actively engaged.

The first element I'm considering for a Beaufort like scale of educational effectiveness has to do with engagement. We know that students or teachers passively engaged in schooling, are like a sailing ship becalmed by lack of wind. There are several possible causes for lack of engagement, just as there may be various causes for a lack of wind. But the failure of a teacher to engage the students means that in the vessel of school performance, the class goes nowhere fast.

So in total calm, both the teachers and students are passive. What's more common is that the teacher may be actively presenting information to a class that cares nothing for the content and lacks engagement. I have this on occasion with one of my students in wood shop who claims that she has no interest in woodworking. As an active teacher, I work to find solutions.

Every day at school students have the potential of learning something. In hurricane force winds they may be learning they want to crawl under a desk and escape. The point is, however, that with s simple scale, if it were widely adopted as was the Beaufort Scale in the British Navy, we could put standardized testing aside and have much greater confidence in our nation's schools, rather than have that confidence undermined by those who would  twist it out of our control. I think in the  simple chart above, you can see that the Beaufort Scale can give guidance to the sailor. Can it also give guidance to teachers, administrators, parents and kids? Work with me on this if you like.

The irony is that some observers would look at a class of students sitting quietly and think that's a good thing.  But in my view, students are not in school to be well managed, but to learn. Most parents, teachers and administrators can step into a classroom and observe engagement and the level of student interest without using a standardized test.

I have been sick with a head cold the last two days, but am looking forward to beginning work on my book about making Tiny Boxes.

make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

observing teaching on track...

I continue to be interested in developing a Beaufort like scale for measuring learning and engagement that would offer a foundation for observation that would not be dependent on standardized test scores. for instance, over the years, we've had visitors from various educational institutions, including the U of A, and from other ISACS schools as part of our accreditation process.

These visitors come on campus and witness the engagement of our students in learning, and do not need standardized test scores to know that learning is on track, and that our students are developing what they need to become successful citizens.

I realize the wind is far less complex than a child's education, and that a Beaufort like scale, from one to ten charting educational endeavors might seem like an overly simplistic approach. But standardized testing is an overly complex one that takes the monitoring of school success out of the hands of parents and teachers and places it in the hands of experts outside the classroom, and completely disconnected from the home environment. It is also disruptive of learning and fails as a clear indicator of future success. It measures the acquisition of knowledge while ignoring the character of the child.

So to have an observable standard, as easy to monitor as watching the wind on a sail would be a clear step forward in American education.

First of all, I ask, when an educational professional walks into a classroom what does he or she expect to find? I take my ideal from the movement of a sailing ship across the sea. What is its rate? And what are the factors that slow the ship? Or put it at risk? If parents were equipped with their own non standardized measure of their student's success they would have a much better grip on their children's education.

You can help me with this if you like. Use the comments function below.

In an ideal school, the students and teachers are actively engaged in learning. A sailing ship will not move forward in a state of complete calm, in which both the students and teachers are passive. That state of imperfect calm would be number one on the Beaufort scale. What comes next? You can help.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


In 1994 Alfie Kohn wrote an essay on grading, asking not how children should be graded but why. The truth seems to be that when children are interested in the subject, grading is not necessary to induce learning. When the children must be compelled to learn by external means of assessment, like grading, the results of learning are short-term at best.

I am reminded of a woman who sat in the seat next to mine on a trip home from Providence, RI a number of years back. Upon learning that I taught woodworking, she confessed that the only things she remembered vividly from high school were her time in wood shop and the objects she made there.

I have signed a contract for a new book, and spent the night with projects spinning in my head. I am itching to start, but must first clear the deck and clean the shop.

Richard Bazeley, my counterpart from down under sent the image above inscribed by one of his students using a wood burner. He notes in reference to the interconnectedness that wood working suggests:
Relationships are the most important part of our students lives. The connections they make and break fill up their days. My middle school students have been making simple cheese boards and decorating them with burnt designs. I am surprised how many of them were influenced at some stage by the writings of A.A.Milne and the stories of Winnie the Pooh. They decorate their work with images of the characters and quotes from the books.
Objects like the cheese board may be kept for a lifetime. It's value is not that cheese may be cut upon it, but that it expresses so much more. To assign a grade to it would be to narrow its meaning and ignore its full effect.

On the other hand, I am often amazed by what some folks fail to understand. While I was clearing up gravel along the road coming up to my house, a man pulling a Kubota on a trailer stopped to talk tractors. In the course of conversation, he mentioned that he had gone to the Clear Spring School "Raise the Barn" event on Sunday and was disappointed that "it was a fund raiser,"  that they had no hamburgers, and the free gumbo was in limited supply and had gotten cold by the time he had arrived. I informed him that it was not a fundraiser, (even though there was donation jar), that the gumbo that he arrived late for, was free, and that the performance of the much loved band Mountain Sprout was also free.

I was reminded that there are those in the world who have not had the opportunity to experience the interconnectedness of all things, that have been damaged in their educations, not made whole, and that there are many in the world who need a better explanation of things.  When he claimed that Clear Spring School was unnecessary because we already have a good public school, I pointed out that competition of ideas, methods and philosophy make all things better (a point he seemed to understand), and that I'd best get back to moving dirt.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Oliver R. Kirby

Making a paper box.
A good friend of mine passed away in 2009, and I was reminded of him while in Annapolis as I had dinner with a former employee of the National Security Agency who was one of my students at the Annapolis Woodworking Guild Box Making Class. My new friend in Annapolis knew of Ollie Kirby and his time and position at the NSA.

Oliver R. Kirby had been in my thoughts of late due to a movie about Alan Turing who had built the first computer designed to break the Nazi's Enigma code during WWII. Kirby had been stationed at Bletchley Park in the UK along with Alan Turing, and while they did not work closely together, both shared important roles in breaking the German Codes. Ollie Kirby had time on his hands while he was in the UK during WWII, and because his wife Jeanne was in the States, he was lonely and volunteered for every possible assignment in an effort to end the war ASAP so he could get home. While others were using their time off  to explore the UK or hang out in bars, Ollie chose to keep very busy instead. He made himself essential to the war effort and that led to important work in national security after WWII.

We met Jeanne and Ollie Kirby when they vacationed regularly in Eureka Springs during the 1980's and early 1990's. We had dinner with them on several occasions and had them as guests in our home. Ollie and I shared a love of wood and woodworking, and one would never have guessed the important role that Ollie had played in WWII, as he was not one to brag on his top secret exploits, nor would he have been allowed to. Some of Kirby's personal narrative has been declassified so you can be read some of his story on line.

Ollie, besides being a cryptographic expert, was very different from Alan Turing whom he described as being remote. Ollie was kind, friendly, and loved wood. His wife Jeanne commissioned me to make a cabinet to fit Ollie's ties, of which he had a large collection, and I delivered it to their home in Greenville, Texas during the early 1990's.  I have always been amazed how a love of wood can push so many other barriers aside and open doors of friendship wide. Oliver R. Kirby was an inductee in the NSA Hall of Honor in 2008. When we visited Ollie and Jeanne in their home in Greenville, Texas, Ollie showed me his efforts to convert a log into lumber using a Haddon lumber maker.

I am home in Arkansas for classes at Clear Spring School. This morning the first and second grade students  made paper boxes using the designs published in Ednah Anne Rich's book, Paper Sloyd for the Primary Grades. I am always deeply intrigued by the interconnection of all things, and that a sincere interest in craftsmanship can lead to the development of connections even where one might not expect.

Susan Blow, in her book Symbolic Education, wrote the following about Froebel:
In the attempt to capture and hold the citadel of imagination, Froebel makes one of his most signal advances upon the theory and practice of his predecessors. Rousseau had nothing to say of imagination, save that it is the source of all human misery, and that its wings should be clipped as early and as close as possible. Pestalozzi ignores it––hence the dreary monotony of his sense-impressing exercises. He urges us to "Make the child see, hear, and touch many things," to "introduce order into his observations," and to "develop the elementary ideas of number and form in order that he may be able to compare objects and exercise his judgement upon them". But the necessity of a "spiritual questioning of sense and outward things seems to have occurred neither to him nor to the more recent advocates of the doctrine that all thought is transformed sensation. Hence their practice tends to arrest development at its starting point, and a faithful adherence to their suggestions would produce in the pupil a strong likeness to that Peter Bell on whom Wordsworth has conferred so inglorious an immortality.
One of the things that I hoped to convey in my presentation in Annapolis to the Annapolis Woodworking Guild is that the spirit of the child can be energized by craftsmanship without forcing the child to conform to any particular religion, or any particular set of religious principles, thus not violating the separation between church and state within the public school context. Craftsmanship can engage the child's spiritual nature in public education without promoting a particular religion. Froebel's kindergarten was intended as a means to enrich the spirit of the child, while it seems  modern education in both public and private schools does the exact opposite, constricting the child's inventiveness and creativity whether they intend to or not. The answer is to make things that reinforce the child's sense of connection with community, for the child's spirit rises in direct proportion to the growing sense of interconnection with all things.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 13, 2015

beautiful boxes galore...

Yesterday I finished my 3 days of box making with the Annapolis Woodworking Guild, and I'm headed home to Arkansas today having made many new friends. At left and below are some photos of my class:

The following is from Susan E. Blow, Symbolic Education 1894:
All children crave living pets, build sand houses, and make caves in the earth; are fond of intertwining bits of straw, paper, or other plaited material; delight in shaping bowls and cups and saucers from mud; and are inveterate diggers in the ground; even when as in city streets and alleys, such digging is wholly without result. Can we fail to recognize in these universal cravings the soul echoes of the forgotten past when man began the subjugation of Nature by the taming of wild beasts, the erection of rude shelters, the weaving of garments, or the manufacture of pottery? Can we doubt that the order of history should be the order of education, and that before we teach the child to read and write we should aid his efforts to repeat in outline the earlier stages of human development?
Human culture must arise anew within each generation. It is made whole when children live enough of it to come to the fullest possible understanding.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

restoring creativity

Making finger joints
On Friday I demonstrated box making, made sleds and taught design for 25 students in Annapolis. Yesterday, the tables were turned at Annapolis Woodworks for 10 students from the Annapolis Woodworking Guild, so that they might learn as we all learn best, by doing. I had the opportunity to watch them work and to take a few photos in the process.

At Raise the Barn today in Eureka Springs, some of my students will be teaching woodworking to kids and their parents, making toy cars, tops and button toys.

I have one more day of box making class in Annapolis (today) and am pleased with what we have accomplished.

Installing keys in the corners of boxes.
As you can see, we are each hands-on learners, practicing and developing the wisdom of our hands.
Cutting a bottom panel for a box.

Susan E. Blow, in 1894, wrote of the child's relationship to greater humanity as follows:
If humanity is neither a mere aggregate of atomic individuals, nor a mere organism whose members, while participating in the life of the whole, remain forever different from that whole and from each other; if, indeed, it is a spiritual unity whose essence, "communicable but not divisible," exists whole and entire in each particular man, then obviously in history the individual may find a revelation of his nature and an intimation of his destiny. History paints life on a wide canvas and in a true perspective. Through its study man separates what in himself is essential and permanent from that which is transitory; from its drift he learns the direction in which he is tending and the ends he blindly seeks; in its achievement he finds the solution of his contradictions, the answers to his enigmas, and the vindication of his hopes.
Susan E.Blow was the person who introduced Kindergarten to St. Louis public schools. It might seem strange to educators of today to consider that part of their role is that of introducing the child to his responsibilities within the human race. But in the early days of Kindergarten, the concern was for the development of the child as a spiritual presence within the fabric of community. The focus now is on pressuring the child to read and do math, come hell or high water. And yet, the child is in need of being brought into relationship with the whole of humanity. While schools pressure children to all be alike in their capacities and objectives, human culture requires diversity in order to find strength. Creativity is a necessary ingredient and adults, too have a need to express themselves.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Annapolis, MD

The Ayes have it, among Annapolis Woodworkers.
Troy Beale's Annapolis School of Woodworking
I am in the Annapolis area with the Annapolis Woodworking Guild. I presented a lecture last night, then today had a demonstration class with 25 or 26 students. Saturday and Sunday I'll have a hands on class for 10 students so that each can make two boxes. We met last night in a Methodist Church, and the actual classes are being held at  Annapolis Woodworks hosted by school director/woodworker, Troy Beale.

Woodworkers are truly my kind of folks. The Annapolis Woodworker's Guild does service projects including toy making for kids. They also have an educational scholarship program, and my coming here to teach is sponsored by their educational fund.

I would write more in the blog, but it has been a busy day. I neglected to take photos except those above, even though there were plenty of photographs taken by others to prove I was here.

Aside from the how to, and why to of box making, the subject of conversation has been very much the same as what I've shared before in the blog. Working with hands and mind, we express greater intelligence and moral stature than when with the mind alone. It's not just as my new friend Andy said, that the idle hands are the devil's workshop, but that the hands have the power to do great things. We shape the wood, and we in the same movement give shape to ourselves.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

fitting oneself to the whole of the social order.

The following is from Dr. Matti Bergström's book, Hjarnans resurser — en bok om ideernas ursprung "The Brain's Resources — a Book about the Origin of Ideas."
...We evolve in order to unite the world we live in into a wholeness. ...This is why the unifying force, the collective principle ... assumes ever greater importance in our lives. It becomes apparent in our thirst for peace, accord, and harmony, goodness, a social and religious paradise, love of our fellow humans and nature and an ensouling of nature. ...Even in our science we wish more and more to be rid of one-sided analysis, divisiveness and disjointed knowledge to create instead a method of research that tends toward synthesis and holism, wholeness and cohesion, where values can coexist without battling each other. We increasingly want the selective forces to serve the collective. — pp. 147-8
Those who have read Froebel's ideas about Gliedglanzes may see a similarity between the thoughts of Kindergarten's inventor the more modern brain researcher who passed away last summer. As with most things in the blog, I've written about this before. generic humanity fulfills and interprets Nature, Nature must be the prophecy and symbol of mind. Therefore, man may find intimations of his own being in the course of the stars and the fall of the stone, in the shining world of crystals and the circular process of organic life. –– Susan Blow, Symbolic Education, 1911
The following is from an essay in the Conservator, July 1909, exploring Walt Whitman's poetry and suggesting that a school must pay attention to both the individuality of the child, and the larger societal structure of which he is part, with an eye toward meaningful integration between the two.
The teacher may well ask in reply, How can I accomplish such ends under present school conditions? How in my crowded classroom recognize the simple separate person? It is not easy perhaps to escape from mechanism in the school system of a large congested city. But if America is finally to realize herself we must work out a plan by which the individuality of child, teacher, and principal will be recognized and respected. If the teachers have a training in normal schools of the right caliber and supplement this by years of practical experience they ought to be able by counsel and suggestion to point the way to improvement in both management and method.
Today I have my home school class making boxes, and tomorrow I leave to teach at Annapolis.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Today my lower elementary school students made pinwheels from Ednah Anne Rich's book Paper Sloyd For Primary Grades. During recess they ran all over the school campus, as a blaze of bright colors. Some of the students made extras to give as gifts to favorite staff members.

My middle school students are making boxes of various kinds. I am preparing for my trip to teach box making with the Annapolis Woodworker's Guild. While I am out of town, my students will teach woodworking to adults and kids at a special school event intended to raise awareness of the school. So, while I'm teaching how to make boxes, my students will teach how to make tops, toy cars and button toys.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 06, 2015

working together for good and without fear.

I was intrigued by this quote from New Hampshire Furniture Master, Tom McLaughlin, describing his experience in teaching woodworking in a New Hampshire State Prison. "Working together for good and without fear." It could be a mantra for society at large.  It seems that the major barrier that folks face in working together is the irrational fear they may have of each other. But working together reminds us of the values we share and that there is no need for fear.

So where do we start? Make, fix, create and share what you've learned with others.

When you give away who you are, you will never run out of stock.

My editor, Matthew sent me a link to an opinion piece at the New York Times, describing the value of tinkering with kids. Yes it's about learning. Yes it is about fun. It should also be noted that development of craftsmanship is the foundation of human culture and human values.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 05, 2015

even babies are experiential learners...

Even babies are experiential learners. Does that come as a surprise? An article in the Washington Post suggests: Your baby is doing little physics experiments all the time, according to a new study.
The article notes the value of surprise. Surprise babies with what they do not expect, and they turn experimental and begin investigations. Why is that not the case in all schooling?

The educational value of surprise should no longer be surprising. Jerome Bruner had noticed the value of effective surprise which I've written about in an earlier blog post.

Also, it seems that parents have gone nuts over reading, and companies are marketing products that don't work but that are intended to make a profit on parental foolishness. Would it not be better if we were working toward giving children the powers to test and investigate the real world than to read all the 3rd hand stuff that has come to dominate our various realities?

The night before last, in my dreams I was teaching my dad to understand wood grain. It was not something that could be explained by words alone, so it required a saw and plane. Last night I dreamed about the small doors I am using on my small chapels shaped boxes. My dream involved a means of making small half circles of hardwood and fitting them into the doors. The hole for them is to be drilled using a hole cutting drill bit. Then, according to my dream, the half circles are to be turned on the lathe in a single operation and then cut apart with one part in each door to meet at the center.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 04, 2015

at the risk of appearing smug.

It is difficult to give voice to that which must be experienced in order to be understood. That seems to be the barrier between the purely academic, the clerics, scholars, politicians and businessmen and the world of craftsmanship that artisans inhabit.

Some may read John Ruskin who doubt his conclusions. That makes me wonder why they would read him in the first place except that it might fit into their feelings of being smug and superior...  As though reading the words of Ruskin allows them to feel as though they've mastered Ruskin and put him in his place in the intellectual scheme of things. How dare a man proclaim the spiritual infusion of society resultant from the exercise of craftsmanship! But in order to develop as a craftsman, one must care deeply about the results of one's labor. Within that caring is found the conviction to serve others, heart and soul, even when it requires effort to evolve in that service: Thus serving and making a relentless effort to become better at it.

Some study art history, thinking that by classifying works, they can gain a sense of mastery over the arts. But ask them to try painting like Jackson Pollack and they'll likely be afraid to get paint on their shoes.

In Maine and New Hampshire,  prison inmates have been given the chance to turn their lives around through the exercise of craftsmanship as described by this blog post on Fine Woodworking's website.
"I am drawn to go into the prison because there is something wildly spiritual and adventurous about it," notes Furniture Master and program volunteer Tom McLaughlin. "When I enter the inmate's workshop, I am not thinking of myself as the good guy helping out a bad guy. Rather, we are two men who share a common creative passion, working together for good, without fear. It is exhilarating to think an encounter so small and simple can mean so much to a man's experience inside a prison, and beyond."
It is a really fine thing that some folks have remembered the transforming influence of craftsmanship. Cheers to Maine and New Hampshire, the prisons therein, and the Furniture Masters who have dedicated themselves to the betterment of men... may the powers of woodworking to build lives be spread to other states. The operative phrase in the quote above is "working together for good, without fear." Is that not what all of us would want for society at large?

There was a long standing notion among teachers and advocates of manual arts training that it served as a means of building character in those who have not had adequate exposure to the moral structure put forth by religion and the laws of society. So many manual arts training programs were launched to provide manual arts training to the poor that their characters might be shaped to fit our cultural norms and economic necessity.

The truly interesting thing is that craftsmanship applies to the development of moral character in all students. Through craftsmanship even those who are academically inclined would gain insight into and appreciation for the contributions made by others in our society and to value their workmanship. As we faced the banking collapse in 2008, who would not have wished that bankers and politicians would have the kind of moral fiber that can be so easily distributed throughout the human soul by the trials and tribulations of learning to cut a dovetail joint.

Educational Sloyd recognized that the true worth of the objects made in school woodshops was not in the objects made, but in the transformation of lives those objects represent. There are values inherent in craftsmanship that our society has chosen to overlook. If we had woodworking at schools, and in the homes, and greater opportunities to do woodworking (or other crafts) with kids, they might become craftsmen instead of inmates. If all children had the opportunity to learn and develop the values expressed through craftsmanship, we would have a more just and humane society in the first place.

So there are three things that happen when the hands are engaged in skilled making. 
  1. Students develop skill that can be of service to others. 
  2. Students develop intelligence, in that the hands clarify and affirm or deny the conjectures of the mind and test the principles delivered 3rd hand through lectures and through books. 
  3. Truth about moral fiber is clearly revealed in the product at hand. 
Carelessness and lack of skill are revealed in the workings of hand and mind, or the opposite may be true... Where craftsmanship is exercised, truth and beauty may be searched for and found.

Craftsmanship is the anvil upon which the soul is cast and hammered toward perfection. This is not a hard principle to understand unless you are one of those who would prefer to avoid working at it. 

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 03, 2015

risks of early academic instruction...

A tiny mahogany whistle
The following is from Lilian Katz, "Another Look at What Young Children Should Be Learning," published in 1999.

Risks of Early Academic Instruction
Research on the long-term effects of various curriculum models suggests that the introduction of academic work into the early childhood curriculum yields fairly good results on standardized tests in the short term but may be counterproductive in the long term (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997; Marcon, 1995). For example, the risk of early instruction in beginning reading skills is that the amount of drill and practice required for success at an early age seems to undermine children's disposition to be readers. It is clearly not useful for a child to learn skills if, in the process of acquiring them, the disposition to use them is lost. In the case of reading in particular, comprehension is most likely to be dependent on actual reading and not just on skill-based reading instruction (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). On the other hand, acquiring the disposition to be a reader without the requisite skills is also not desirable. Results from longitudinal studies suggest that curricula and teaching should be designed to optimize the simultaneous acquisition of knowledge, skills, desirable dispositions, and feelings (Marcon, 1995). Another risk of introducing young children to formal academic work prematurely is that those who cannot relate to the tasks required are likely to feel incompetent. Students who repeatedly experience difficulties leading to feelings of incompetence may come to consider themselves stupid and bring their behavior into line accordingly. (Bandura et al., 1999)
The whistle shown above was made by one of my 8th grade students from a piece of scrap mahogany. He had observed how a whistle works and decided to make one. He considers this small object to be a tremendous success, and the pleasure of success will demand greater success of him.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 02, 2015

assuming a lively mind

If you watch an American classroom where children have been taught to sit complaisantly as lessons are delivered, you might make an assumption that would be false under any other circumstances... that children's minds, particularly of the poor or lower classes are less than intellectually lively. These children may not have been given the necessary grooming for academic success, but it would be a serious error to fail to assume the presence of lively minds. Give them the right kinds of problems to solve and watch them work. The following is from Lilian Katz and her essay on "STEM in the Early Years":
There are at least two points to emphasize in connection with the importance of intellectual goals. The first is that it is easy to mistakenly assume that because some young children have not been exposed to the knowledge and skills associated with “school readiness” they lack the basic intellectual dispositions, such as to make sense of experience, to analyze, hypothesize, predict, as do their peers of more affluent backgrounds. Children of very low-income families may not have been read to or had opportunities to hold a pencil at home. But I suggest that it is a good idea to assume that they too have lively minds. Indeed, the intellectual challenges that many children face in coping with precarious environments in poor neighborhoods are likely to be substantial and often complex.
The problem, then is to utilize the intelligence available in the classroom rather than to anesthetize it. Katz notes that "intellectual dispositions may be weakened or even damaged by excessive and premature formal instruction," that fails to utilize and promote the intelligences of those who are not academically predisposed.

The following is also from Lilian Katz, in a keynote address Children as Learners, a developmental approach:
Principle No 7

When young children are introduced to formal instruction too early, too intensely and too abstractly, they may learn the knowledge and skills offered, but they may do so at the expense of the disposition to use them. For example, premature instruction in reading or arithmetic (especially through rote learning) may succeed in equipping children with the intended skills and knowledge at a rudimentary level; however, the processes of learning through such instruction may damage their dispositions to become readers and users of the numeracy skills and concepts so painfully acquired.
This principle noted by Katz has been called the "damaged disposition hypothesis" more commonly called the "second grade wash-out phenomenon." The point here is that learning is fun, the states of learning and inquiry are the child's most natural condition, and that schooling can take all the fun out of it and reverse the child's most necessary inclinations.

We can readily admit that in public education where there may be as many as 30 students in a classroom, it is absolutely impossible for a teacher to be attentive to the needs and concerns of all students. And yet, public education persists along the lines of that model. Even in classes where there is some interaction between the teacher and a few more assertive students, there will be quiet ones that even the best teachers will ignore.

Today I am packing materials to carry to Annapolis for three days of adult classes next week.  I learned this morning that to carry what I need as luggage will be only half the price of shipping back and forth via UPS. I will also finish a few things to ship to Appalachian Spring Gallery in D.C. and hold class for my upper middle and high school students.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Three things.

If you watch children at play, you will notice two things, which leads to a third observation. First, they want to be doing things and they learn by doing so. Secondly, they want to be socially engaged with each other. So this brings us to John Dewey, who noticed that schools should not be a means of extracting children from society, but should utilize the natural processes of society in microcosm, to build student success.

When a child makes something in wood shop, it is not only to please his teacher, but to demonstrate important things to his or her peers, to receive their commendations and to please him or her self.

In other words, a classroom setting in which children are enabled to engage in group work, or a classroom in which children are allowed to engage in individualized activities that engage the attention of peers in a positive way, offer an ideal setting for learning. One-on-one tutoring is not as effective as group work, nor will lecture in large classes reach an optimal learning efficiency.

Human culture must arise anew within each generation. It is not enough that we provide a structure through which adult values are imposed. Get the ball rolling through activities that foster the growth of creativity and craftsmanship. You may then witness as children adopt human values on their own and shape human culture within their generation.

Yesterday in the wood shop, I had asked my students to help me by making pinwheels for an upcoming fundraising event. They made some, working together, then launched themselves into experimentation, taping sheets of cardstock together to make larger pinwheels. Then they asked if they could go outside to test them. I said yes. Interestingly, the very large pinwheels would not work if the students ran fast, as they would compress flat against the stick, but if they walked very slowly, they turned in the slightest breath of wind.
No one will therefore doubt that one boy sharpens the genius of another boy more than any one else can. – Comenius
That simple statement should explain the value of group work in schooling. As two girls were making large pinwheels, another began using the same technique of taping paper together to make a large gift for her teacher.

Today, I had my home school students in box making class as you can see in the photo above. Also, I've sanded boxes and have applied a first coat of Danish oil.

Make, fix and create...