Wednesday, March 09, 2016

the use of the square...

Years ago I made a number of wood bodied squares for use in my school shop in the hopes that my students would begin using them to mark straight lines on wood to make their work more accurate.

The advantage of the wooden squares is that they can be dropped without damage, and without great loss if they were damaged, as more can easily be made. They are not as accurate as the ones you can buy from the hardware store or mail order catalog, but here, we're taking about children in the wood shop.

I am planning to take some materials when I go to Portland so that participants in my education symposium can have a "take home" of something I've made that will be useful in the shop as they work with kids. I'll take the stock for the blades from here at home where I can mill it to a uniform thickness, and then make the bodies of the squares from scrap wood while I'm there.

I find it odd in the classroom, that the use of the square is something I need to instruct over and over again each time we are required to mark square lines. For instance, we are making fox and geese games at the upper elementary level. Where the lines intersect tells where holes are to be drilled and even with students I've had for years and with whom I've used squares for innumerable times, instruction was required as follows: "Hold the body of the square tight to the wood as you move your pencil along the edge of the blade." It's proper use is something that you have to feel in your hands as well as observe with your eyes. And until the students understand the reason that a cut be made straight, the use of the square and the reasons for its use appear to remain abstract.

Is that one of those things that comes simply with developmental age as children are more ready to make connections to the abstract? Or can consistent use help?

I find the child's relationship to the abstract to be utterly fascinating. They readily see the connections between things at a very early age, but the ability to grasp the differences between things may come at a later time in their development. This has long been observed and noted by experts in child development. So the difference between a line that is straight and one that is crooked may not be of immediate concern to a child. And the difference between a line that is square to the edge of the wood and one that wanders off square, may not make any difference either. But when it comes time to assemble the work, straight cuts make all the difference in the world, unless you are a child, in which case a box that's off square with the edges random and all, is still a thing of wonder, and of pride and of joy.

Make, fix, create and extend to others an understanding that we may all love learning likewise.

No comments:

Post a Comment