Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with just one student while the others from her class were performing in a Valentines day fundraiser. It reminded me how very special it can be for children to be in a grandfather's woodshop and I must invite others who love woodworking to do just what I just did. There is no better thing in the world than to share what you know and what you love with a younger generation. I was able to work quietly on my own project while Rosie turned wood on the lathe. You've probably noticed that there are few school wood shops left. And while there's some buzz developing about the maker movement and maker shops, focused primarily on digital devices and automated production, there is a great and growing need for both children and adults to slow down, and engage deeply and skillfully in making beautiful and useful things.
As a shop teacher, I was recently quoted by Philosopher/Motorcycle Mechanic, Matthew Crawford in his new book, The World Beyond Your Head. In 2009, he used the same quote from my blog as the opening to chapter one of his best selling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft as follows:
“In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”In the new book, he went to some length analyzing the quote in the conclusion of the book and while he doe not seem to agree with me that the engagement of the hands is an absolute necessity for ALL students, he notes that most of us, particularly in this digital age, would benefit greatly from becoming engaged as creators of the objects that have significance in our own lives. And he agrees with me that schools should play a much greater role in fostering tangible, personal creativity.
It used to be that schools offered all kinds of learning opportunities for children of every possible inclination, but of late, they’ve become so focused on standardized test scores and academic style learning, that unless your children are lucky enough to learn in a school like mine, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands. If you have doubts about it, read my blog. I write regularly about the necessity of hands-on learning, and offer encouragement to parents, grandparents and teachers who want to share their own passion for woodworking with their kids.
My Wisdom of the Hands program at the Clear Spring School is approaching its 15th anniversary this year. I have students in high school who started working with me in the school shop when they were in first grade. If you don't think there's some real magic in that, think again. Invite your own child, grandson or grand daughter into your wood shop and learn first hand. It will benefit both of you.
The photos above and below are of a prototype cabinet for a class in Portland.
Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.