Thursday, March 31, 2016


Yesterday I went to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts to observe my students in their arts classes. Blacksmithing is of particular interest, and some of my students are working on interesting projects. One is making a hand axe with layers of steel forge welded.

Students and staff were trying to use a power hack saw to cut steel. I asked, was that metal quenched? It was obvious to me as I watched the saw's teeth skate on the steel that it was hardened, as that's one common test of material hardness. The instructor, having a background in working finer metals than steel, had forgotten his basics. Steel is not at all like copper, silver and gold.

It reminded me that all kids should have the kind of understanding of material properties that engagement in crafts can supply. We use products each day that are based on metallurgical research and material expertise. My students' work in the blacksmith studio at ESSA may make them even smarter about wood and about tools. When I asked my student later whether letting his piece of iron cool slowly had any effect on his ability to cut it with the saw, he said, "it cut like butter."

Today in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School I'll have only my lower elementary school students. Today is also the day that final portions of my book Tiny Boxes will be turned over to production if we get one last chapter edited and complete.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Getting back to school yesterday, I sat down with a sloyd knife and whittled a simple propeller which I was in the process of testing when the second grade students came in. Of course they wanted to make propellers of their own, and these led to testing, and my students running from one end of the playground to the other. In the hands of one students, one propeller on each end of a stick became an airplane and a control panel was added. Schooling should be full of such memorable experiences as that.  May such learning become woven into
the fabric of life!

I have been making progress in learning Norwegian, with the accompanying realization that speaking it and conversing in it takes far more than just a computer program to enable me to do so. The way the brain works is complex, and learning involves more than just input through one sensory organ alone. It also takes practice, and practice again, and that practice is best when the full range of senses and motor capacities are required, just as they are in full life.

Teaching adults gives me the opportunity to observe as students wrestle with a variety of issues. Some come to class with varying degrees of physical ability or impairment. The handling of materials can be a challenge for some. Positioning of parts can be awkward without practice, even though you've seen it many times before in the hands performed by others. Part of the problem adults face these days, can be directly traced to schooling in which the hands were left still, for without practice at an early age, the hands may be left awkward, requiring a great will to overcome what would have been made easier by practice at an early age.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

kids at work...

Yesterday our Clear Spring School students grades 4-12  began a week at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, with their activities chosen from drawing, jewelry, clay and blacksmithing. That has allowed me some recovery time from my trip to Portland, but today I will have students grades one to three in the wood shop at school.
The students and their teachers spending a week at ESSA seem to be in a state of creative bliss.

Clear Spring School, with small class sizes is the perfect place for experimentation in the area of enrichment.

Children need to be doing real things to capture their attention and intentions. this is also a good experiment for ESSA, the art school friends and I founded several years ago. By extending its range of services beyond the summer months, we build greater value from our investment in it.

It is my hope that similar classes can be made available to public school students, but their numbers can be overwhelming.

Make, fix, create, and extend hands-on learning to those who need it most, meaning of course, all students.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy 424th...

This is the 424th Birthday of John Amos Comenius, father of modern pedagogy, but forgotten by most educators because they really don't like what he said... That boys are by their essential nature active and that we'd best put their natural inclinations to effective use rather than stifle them and waste our time and theirs by restraining them at desks in schooling.

While CSS has started back from spring break, almost all of my students are at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts for the week, engaged in various crafts like painting, pottery, blacksmithing and jewelry making. This break gives me the chance to unwind after my busy week in Portland, Oregon.

I have started using Duolingo to learn Norwegian, having already worked my way through what they offer in Swedish. Norwegian is made somewhat easier by having first studied Swedish, and by logging in twice a day, I can make progress in both. Of course the big problem is that I am no longer as young as I once was, and language learning is easier for the very young. But through persistence an older mind can make up for the inflexibility of the brain, and will warn you by email if you are about to miss a day of study.

As I've quoted many times before in the blog, it was recognized by many that the purposeful development of hand skills must be commenced at the earliest of possible ages. Even in these modern times they are necessary in nearly all things.
"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. —Sir James Crichton-Browne
Just as the hands can become "fixed and stubborn," so too, can be the mind, when the student is beyond the most effective learning years for those things that require the senses of hearing and of touch, which are firmly centered in the sensory and motor cortices of the brain.

It was not stupidity when Froebel and Dewey and Montessori and so many others suggested that children should be engaged primarily in the manipulation of things, and learning through play. For at the earliest years, the activities of the sensory-motor cortices are most acute. So happy birthday Comenius. There are a few who have not forgotten you.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

teaching in reflection.

I am back in Arkansas after a long day of travel and am thankful to have a day of relative rest to allow me to prepare for tomorrow's classes. The last week was intense and a success, and I owe a great deal to a volunteer support staff that prepared stock ahead of time, made certain that my list of tools was on site, and assisted throughout my week in Portland. Besides my students, there were nearly a dozen members of the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers who at various times took part in helping my classes to take place. I should call out and thank each of these members by name but my mind is still a bit too fuzzy and weak at the moment to do so.

Readers have asked about the difference between teaching children and adults, as though one might be easier than another. There are differences at various stages in what the brain is capable of doing, and there are differences in the ease with which learning takes place.

As I reflect upon my own experience, I will share my observations. I invite others to do so as well. First, I am convinced that we each have the capacity to examine our own learning styles and should be encouraged to do so,  particularly if we are to wrestle control of education from the detached "expertise" that has made such a mess of schooling.

So a few questions are in order. Think about a situation in which you learned a lesson of particular significance. How old were you? Where were you? How many students were present? What were you doing? Were you working alone or being taught? Which of your senses were engaged? Was one of your senses predominant in what you learned? Who was teaching? Are there lessons to be drawn from your own schooling that might lend themselves to the creation of an ideal school?

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Friday, March 25, 2016

homeward bound

I am at the Portland airport poised for my journey home following just over a week with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers. I was nervous about getting things covered today due to the ambitious nature of the box we were making. But I believe we reached our limit, and with most of the work that remained being what the students could accomplish on their own.

I am sitting and relaxing without something to plan next for the first time in over a week.

In the meantime, I've been completely through the Dueling program for learning Swedish, and will do so again and again for a few more weeks before I transition to learning Norwegian. I've been at it for 120 days straight, but realize that "learning" Swedish is actually quite different from speaking it and hearing it with clear understanding.

One thing that has become clear in watching children and adults learn is how the various parts of the brain are applied at different stages. So as I reflect a bit on the subject, I hope my readers will do the same, considering learning in their own hands and in their own lives.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

one more day

I have one more day of class in Portland as my box making students finish their work. On Saturday, I fly back to Arkansas and prepare for classes at the Clear Spring School.

Froebel believed that "to become conscious of self is the first business of the child and the whole business of man." What if we as teachers, parents, guardians and promoters of wisdom and growth were to see children in their full dimensions, not as mere children, but as growing into membership of family, community, state and nation, and more? Assisting that unfolding of consciousness is the most important goal of education.

The following is from Susan E. Blow who founded the first public school kindergarten in the US.
The greatest mistakes in education are rooted in the failure to recognize and conform to the different stages of natural development. Educational theorists are constantly pointing out this error; educational practice is constantly repeating it. Notwithstanding all that has been said and written, we still make knowledge our idol, and continue to fill the child's mind with foreign material, under the gratuitous assumption that at a later age he will be able, through some magic transubstantiation, to make it a vital part of his own thought. This is like loading his stomach with food which he can not digest, under the delusive hope that he may be able to digest it when he is a man. It is forcing the mind to move painfully forward under a heavy weight, instead of running, leaping and flying under the incitement of its own energy and the allurement of its own perceived ideal. The attempt to force a premature activity of reason can result only in repulsion of his sympathies and the stultification of his —Susan Blow, Symbolic Education.
There have been a number of articles recently about how desperately misinformed people are, how little they know about science, geography, and/or any other subject. They have a huge number of deeply held opinions about everything, nonetheless. Much of what we see in the media regarding moronic political discourse, anger toward academia and science, the calling of names like leftist and socialist, the fixation in the media with characters like balloon boy, Joe the plumber and Sarah Palin are the direct consequences of the schooling that Susan E. Blow describes. Her words were written in 1894. Can it be that by neglecting the education of our children's hands, we are turning their minds to mush? There is a direct one-to-one correlation between the decline of the manual arts in education and the rapid rise of the American pinhead.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

cabinets and gliedganzes

Yesterday we finished a successful 2 day class in making beautiful small cabinets. The cabinets were not completely finished but were done to the point at which they could be sanded and finished in the student's own shops.

Last night I made a presentation on my work and the Wisdom of the Hands program at the Multnomah Art Center, and today I begin a two day class in box making.

Last night, members of the audience noted that many private schools have noticed the importance of wood shop in school, but so many public schools are still doing away with it if they haven't done so already. Of course we know the foolishness of Educational Policy makers. The same thing is happening all over the world among those who've made the mistaken assumption that knowledge can be instilled in minds without accompanying experience.

The Germans have two words for knowledge, wissenschaft, for that which is passed along second hand from others, and kentniss for knowledge that you get from personal experience. Most scientific knowledge falls under the category wissenschaft, as it is passed along one person to another, and wissenschaft is cheaper and more efficient to convey through books and lecture than providing the opportunity to do real stuff. The only problem with it is that without kentniss, actual experience learning real skills to do real things, wissenschaft is difficult to integrate, and untrustworthy at best.

Last night I was also trying to remember the term Froebel used to describe the child's integration into the fabric of all life. The term has been translated as meaning member-whole, and the objective was for the child to feel a part of and connected to all things, and the seamless fabric of existence: a part of family, a part of community, a part of human culture, a part of the natural environment, and membership in each of these things. The German term that I had tried to remember was Gliedganzes.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the possibility of learning likewise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

cabinet making

Today in the wood shop with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, we worked on white oak cabinets. We drilled dowel holes to join the parts, and cut the profile of the top. We are making good progress, but I neglected to bring the connection for the camera back with me, so, sorry, no photos.

Among my students are a former teacher and a former school principal. And of course, all are in complete agreement about the foolishness of educational policy makers.

In cabinet making I'm delivering "just in time" directions. There is little reason to provide information that the students are not ready to use.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Monday, March 21, 2016

hands on learning symposium

Yesterday we held a symposium for educators at Catlin-Gabel School in Portland. It was attended by about 30 teachers and educational enthusiasts. I made presentations on the Wisdom of the Hands philosophy, various teachers explained their programs, we took a tour of the Catlin-Gabel Woodshed, we did exercises in educational sloyd, and gave away gifts from both Lee-Valley and Vaughan and Bushnell tools. It was a busy and rewarding day in which teachers listened patiently to my rationale, but also created connections with each other. A similar meeting on the East Coast in 2001 led to the creation of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers. Who knows where this might lead.

In any case, I had a great day. It was a good day for hands on learning. I want to particularly thank Guild member Larry Wade for his working in organizing the symposium. I am thankful to have played a part in it, and today I begin a class in building a small cabinet with 8 students.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

this day...

Yesterday in Portland,we had a hands-on class, making boxes like the ones shown in the photos at left and below. We had fun, we learned together, and became friends.

Today we have our educator symposium and I'm a bit more nervous about this than I am making boxes, as I have more practice in the wood shop, than standing before a group of people, even though I know we have so much in common.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Box making

Yesterday with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, I taught a demonstration class on making a hinged box with floating panel top. Today we will make a finger joint router table and cut the joints for a Greene and Greene styled box. I am nervous about getting this ambitious project done in one day with 12 students, each making a box of their own.

Yesterday I was  reminded of an old friend from the 1990's when I sold my work at the Philadelphia Buyer's Market of American Crafts. Bill Bolstad was usually in a neighboring booth selling his own boxes and small tables, and the quality and design of his work was remarkable. He's also slightly older than I and a craftsman and person I regarded at the time as being an inspiration for my own development. Bill lives not too far from the Portland area and many of the Guild's members have participated in his box making classes.

Last night I watched a bit of a ball game in which UConn was competing with (and being beaten by) Kansas. Anyone who thinks that the incredible play was merely an exercise of bodily athleticism, and not an expression of mind would have to be mistaken just as one who would think intellectualism had nothing to do with the body. I watched as one Kansas player went airborne at the net and lingered there seemingly in defiance of gravity until the moment another player had missed. He then pulled the ball from about 3 feet away and shoved it through the net. There was no absence of mind or mindfulness.

The way the brain develops its wiring is through exercise, just as the muscles are formed through regular use. Axons and dendrites in the brain are developed through stimulation. It is a mistake to think that they just develop on their own by thinking about abstract stuff that's disconnected to real world activity. Instead, they and their potential connections to doing wonderful things are lost when not exercised.

The images are of the beginning of my class and of the wonderful shop at the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers.

I am working to get my hands around my education symposium: exactly what I'll present, and what I hope we can accomplish.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the hope of learning likewise.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

today's class

I was so busy yesterday that I neglected to take any photos of the Guild of Oregon Woodworker's shop, or of the preparation taking place. Several members were at work as I prepared stock for jigs and sleds.

Last night we had an open house in the shop, intended to introduce me to members but also to invite community members to investigate the opportunity that membership in the guild
offers. A number of people came in response to an article in the newspaper, and it is likely that new members will result.

Since I have little energy to write more, I'll share a bit of observation from N. Christian Jacobsen from a time in which intelligence was measured as being something more than how well you might read or do math:
Once the foundation for a skill is achieved development thereafter will proceed more quickly under freer exercises. In both respects a tension is needed to enable development. This tension comes forth most strongly and naturally in relation to some definite exercise that involves thinking; and thus is not tedious and rigid but freer, and otherwise variously developmental when alternation of exercises occurs throughout an entire task. Alternating forms and alternating hand exercises should be harmonious just as development of the form sense and manual proficiency. This has its basis in nature’s harmony.

Finally, the sense for the beautiful which can be gained should also have something to do with movement itself. A sloyd teacher should have an eye to leading his pupils to beautiful movements. A chemist does not treat his glassware as one would in the kitchen. It would not be to refine sloyd to introduce a measure of beauty to the work method: there is room for it and it will also have its useful effects, but it should not be something affected nor should it be left out.
The idea that the development of form and that the development of beauty are related to the development of intelligence and the expression of intelligence never comes up, and is unknown to modern educational policy makers.

Today, I have a demonstration class in making a wooden box.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Friday, March 18, 2016

in portland and prepping for class.

I have fond memories of Portland, Oregon, having come here a half century ago to visit my Grandfather. It's grown. It would be difficult to find that old place in the midst of interstate highways, tangled as they are now. The highways are flooded with traffic that streams along for a few moments and then comes to a screeching halt. This is a bit different from my part of Arkansas. On the plane, a man in the seat across the isle and in the next row was searching through beautiful homes and settings in a real estate catalog, and you can be sure that few were as beautiful as what I left to come here.

As tangled as the highways are here, my mind is in a similar state, as I face 7 days of classes, finding my way in a new time zone, over unfamiliar highways and becoming familiar with a new shop. You can imagine that I might be nervous about all this. Is that not the way we grow. Is that not the way we encourage growth in others?

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

off to Portland

Not all my students take their work and craftsmanship seriously, but some do. The box guitar done by Hanna is one that has been worked on with the best of intentions, and her work will set the bar for my other students to aspire to.

I am on my way to Portland, Oregon today. I learned that my ESSA class this summer is almost full  (one opening left) so if you would like to take a class from me in my home town of Eureka Springs,  Arkansas, please go to and register.

Knud in Norway asked via email, about the contrast between teaching adults and teaching kids. In many ways, teaching adults is easier for several reasons. First is that in teaching classes in which adult students have signed themselves up and paid to be there, there are no questions of whether the material will be of interest. Children come with all kinds of issues and situations that are not present in my adult classes. In teaching adults, it is extremely rewarding to receive undivided attention. With kids, I often have the challenge of keeping some of them engaged, as not all have the same level of interest or level of skill. With kids, I also have to watch the clock to see that I fill the hour, not letting them out too early. I also face the problem on the other side, where they don't feel like they are done with their work and are not ready to quit. In adult classes, we simply persist until the project is complete.

In any case, my bags are packed and I'm ready for travel.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

coming close to departure...

My classes in Portland are nearly full and I have the first of my bags packed with tools, supplies and some clothes to serve as padding and to keep me decent during the week. It is amazing how much preparation time has to go into preparing to teach adults, particularly when the journey involves air flight and bags that must be carefully packed.

At school today one of our students was wanting gloves to enable him to slide down a rope, so at my suggestion he made cardboard pads held on by duct tape to serve the same purpose.

I have a new student from Germany who is here for the month while he and his father visit his grandmother. The other students are enjoying learning just a bit of German, and it is wonderful for us all to spend time with someone from a different culture. Severin's first request was to make a slingshot, which you can see in the photo above, and he wanted to make something that he could take home his first day.

Today in wood shop, one of my middle school students is ready to put strings on her guitar. My high school students are soldering wires to build mini-amplifiers for theirs and adding the electronic parts to the insides of their guitars.

If you know anything about cutting edge science, you know that the theoretical foundation, moving from hypothesis to testing of hypothesis is dependent on the use of metaphor. We also use metaphor to help ourselves understand and explain complex processes that cannot be easily or readily observed. Einstein formulated his theory of relativity by observing trains coming and going from the station and we build our own understanding of things by making metaphorical leaps from the firm platform of personal experience.

Educational policy makers have constructed a system of science education based on right and wrong answers, and as we face the future, with loss of brain power in science, you will hear the howls, that the arts should be further marginalized to make room for more concentration on science.

There are right and wrong answers. But when you clearly examine the arts, you begin to understand that they are the right means through which to propel students into science. The arts develop intrinsic motivation in the pursuit of rigor, while providing the metaphorical foundation for extension of human scientific knowledge. If we have become a nation of idiots, it is not because we have forgotten to teach science, but that we have neglected to teach the arts.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others an opportunity to learn likewise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

getting ready...

I leave for teaching in Portland Oregon on Thursday, so I am getting a few things ready each day. Yesterday I sharpened the school's set of sloyd knives for use during my woodworking education symposium. I have files and files to load on my hard drive and articles to gather for printing and distribution.

Yesterday in the school wood shop, my middle school and high school students worked on guitars and the upper elementary students worked on their checker sets.

One of my middle school students who is working on the chess set shown below has discovered an interesting thing about herself. She is a synesthete, meaning that her senses cross. She is lucky enough to see colors in response to touch, and was pleased to learn that not only does she have interesting qualities, they can be understood and explained to others who may not be so gifted.

There is a website that offers a test to see if you are a synesthete:

Anyone who does anything real with the intention of benefiting others will know something about how craftsmanship connects one to the whole of humanity (and beyond.) Barbara Bauer (in a private email) mentioned Heidigger's term Dasein, which according to Wikipedia means the following:
(German pronunciation: [ˈdaːzaɪn]) is a German word which means "being there" or "presence" (German: da "there"; sein "being") often translated in English with the word "existence". It is a fundamental concept in the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger, particularly in his magnum opus Being and Time.
Can you imagine schooling that might take that into consideration? Most schooling in America these days would have you watching the clock and looking for the nearest exit. I was of course reminded of Froebel's concept Gliedganzes through which the intent of learning was to discover oneself in relation to the whole of existence... to find one's place within the natural world as well as within the fabric of community and humanity. By making beautiful and useful objects, one can find hope of that.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Monday, March 14, 2016

no ideas but in things...

Today I have a full day of classes which will involve students working on their guitars, and with some getting ready for paint. Today is also hand-off day at Taunton Press during which some parts of my work on the Tiny Boxes book will be passed along to production staff.

William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician/poet who had written "no ideas, but in things," a line in one of his poems. He believed in spare use of language, allowing the reader to become engaged in the interpretation of meaning, but in this curt phrase, his meaning was clear. An intelligent analysis and review can be found here, written by Ed Wycliffe
The historical context will show that Williams meant for poetry to focus on objects rather than mere concepts, on actual things rather than abstract characteristics of things. The mention of any object creates a visualized idea in our minds—we form an image of the thing. This does not happen at the mention of abstractions, like “truth”, or “memory”. Abstract words do not create images in the mind. Only “things” create visual images. Things can be tangible, such as a wheel barrow. Or things can be a behavior, such as a sidelong glance. The image of a thing creates an idea of what the thing means in the context it is used. Hence there are “no ideas, but in things” according to Williams.
If we really wanted the American culture to blossom, and for our economy to surge into an American renewal, it would be by empowering the arts in school, so that children would be exposed to method as well as knowledge. We need to bring artists into schools, to teach things like calligraphy, book making, woodworking, gardening, much more music, cooking and the like, and we need to use those creative expressions as the foundation of all other subjects. Writing? Give the kids something to write about? Math? Give the kids real problems to figure out. Our students will arise to exceed our expectations.

Aldous Huxley in his essay Heaven and Hell, notes (as have others) that the only metaphors available to us for the exploration of abstract concepts (like heaven and hell) come from the concrete reality in which we live. This is the same point that George Lakoff makes in Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. If we want children to be creative beyond their kindergarten years, we must give them the tools for it. Metaphors provide the basis of all human creativity, and those metaphors must of necessity be drawn from real tools, real processes, real understanding of concrete phenomenon, for the ideas that have merit are drawn from reality, from the experience of things.

When we understand the role the hands play in human development, in the growth of character, intelligence and creativity, we also understand the role of the arts and the necessity of bringing an increasing number of artists into schools and applying their hands  (and minds) in the education of our children. Of no surprise to my regular readers, understanding the role of the hands in education also provides a clear rationale for woodworking education. Woodworking in schools is still important despite the concerted effort of many school administrators to do away with it.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

students and wrens.

Last night we had a very successful fundraiser/art auction at the Rogue's Castle Manor outside Eureka Springs. I sold a cabinet from my book Building Small Cabinets and two boxes and of course my own contributions were dwarfed by the generosity of so many other artists.  Clear Spring School is not supported by tax dollars and community support is essential. We are relieved to have the fundraiser complete for this year.

As part of my review of materials for my trip to Portland, I've posted the essay by David Henry Feldman, The Child As Craftsman online where my readers can access it.

There is a natural inclination that has not been fully studied, for children to differentiate themselves from each other. For instance, when one sibling may be really good at sports, the other may choose to gain notice in the field of academics. So it happens not just in schools but also in homes.

When I was a very small child, I faced competition and correction from my sister Ann. As children, we were always supplied with colors, paper and paints, and she became the "artist" of the family. Comparing my own work with hers, I felt inept, and she reminded my constantly of her superior skills by drawing on my paper as well as her own. These kinds of early childhood experiences add up and are mulched into our perceptions of self.

David Henry Feldman is a recognized expert in child development whose primary focus has been on the highly gifted child. His paper, the Child as Craftsman is one I've referred to many times before in the blog, and I make it available here with his permission, as I believe it is important.

If you understand the child's need to differentiate and distinguish him or her self through the development of some specialized skill you realize that a one size fits all standard of schooling ignores the educator's most important assets... the child's own inclination to develop and grow.

But then of course most schools have long ignored the basics of child development. Great universities of education tend to ignore child development, as what teacher, given the current standards in class size, has any time or opportunity to consider the needs of an actual child?

Looking at education through the lens that Piaget offered, we know that children are pushed beyond their developmental levels consistently, forcing them to hate schooling.

When I started out as a woodworking teacher, I had hoped that I might help others to understand the value of hands on learning. I found the problems in education to be far greater than I imagined. But the hands provide a lens on learning. If we look at education from the perspective of the hands, and understand the essential role that the hands through craftsmanship (whether in the wood shop, or practice studio, or laboratory) can play, we are given a simple formula for educational renewal: Put the hands to work in support of learning.

The image above is our newspaper box which has been taken over once again by a nesting wren. It happens this same time each year, and my wife has suggested we simply go with the flow of nature rather than attempt to fight with the inevitable: hence the sign to alert the newspaper carrier to avoid the box. There are some things we can change and some things we should change and some things we must change. One thing that we should, could and must change involves the education of our children. Would it not be best if we were to put their natural passions to work in our own behalf? Unlike wrens which are absolutely true to their own species and standardization, human beings are programmed toward diversity of skills and individual adaptations upon which our culture and civilization are fabricated.

Friend and shop teacher Jonathan Dietz at Weston Middle School in Weston, Massachusetts outside Boston has offered a gallery of his student's work. The collection consists of band sawn boxes, assembled boxes, small tables an a number of small interesting things of the student's own design.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Clear Spring Fling 2016

Bree's guitar
This day in Eureka Springs is a big day for those involved with the Clear Spring School. We are having our annual fundraising auction at Rogue's Castle overlooking the White River and the lovely town of Beaver, Arkansas:  The Clear Spring Fling, 2016

The view from the castle is one of the best in the Ozarks. The food prepared largely by local caterer Jane Tucker will be (as is always) fabulous, and art donated by local artists and food certificates donated by local restaurants will be sold in live and silent auction throughout the night.

Yesterday I helped move art from school to the castle in preparation for today's event. I will have a few items for sale in the live and silent auction. For the silent auction I donated two boxes and worked with one of my students on a box guitar. In the live auction, I've offered a cabinet from my book Building Small Cabinets.

Yesterday I learned that an artist friend is suffering from advanced COPD, and a fundraising auction will be held to help his family pay the huge medical bills that have accumulated. Max Elbow has always been one of the artists whose generosity has helped support others facing crises in our small community.

Individual artists only rarely have adequate health insurance, given the stupidity of the American model. Time and again, Eureka Springs Artists have stood together to support each other and those others in need whether they are artists or not.

I have mentioned before that a certain set of values is shared by those who create objects of beauty. Those are the values of humanity, not greed, and are the values that have shaped and molded human culture in those places where goodness resides. I am very lucky to live in one of those spots.

Let me assure you that the same circumstances can be found in other places and most particularly where people:

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Friday, March 11, 2016

the velocity of money...

I found this to be interesting.  On the program Fast Money, Asher Edelman was briefly interviewed. He is known to have been the role model for the character Gordon Gecko in the the movie Wall St. and the panel of interviewers wonder why the man judged by some as a symbol of Wall St. greed would support Bernie Sanders in the coming election. Edelman insists that Senator Sanders is the only one who understands "the velocity of money." The interviewers were incredulous.

There are actually many things at play beyond money. The nation that understands the necessity of making beautiful and useful things is a nation that's willing to invest in the moral fiber of its citizenry, and believe it or not, while moral fiber is not something you can take to the bank, it is the basis of a strong economy. For those unfamiliar with the concept, we can call it "honest work for honest pay." It is different from "investing" in whatever makes the most bucks. The difference is (for those who are clueless) that investing moves money around in search of itself. Honest work for honest pay actually creates new value that did not exist before, that comes both in external form as service to others and internally as self-respect and a sense of holistic engagement in life.

I was telling our head of schools today about the emphasis placed in educational Sloyd on the development of morality in all children, not only in the working class... That as children made beautiful and useful things, or attempted to, they grew in moral responsibility and relationship to community and family.  Even if their attempts were unsuccessful they at least learned to respect to those others who did so. But an economy in which those who engage in honest labor are diminished by it, will not last regardless of how much money the rich siphon off and sock away. As it is, more money made by the rich means higher stock prices and higher real estate prices and higher gold prices with no increase in productivity.

Asher Edelman notes that for most Americans (80%), the recession has not as yet come to an end. Most citizens are making less money and fewer are employed. But with the rich able to simply bid up stock prices, it gives the appearance of a successful economy.

The "recovery" (aftermath) of the "great recession" involved the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the economic elite in American history. Never before has the middle class lost so much wealth disproportionately in so few years. During the great depression, even bankers suffered, but in this recession, the banks were bailed out immediately by the Bush administration in 2008 and made larger and stronger while thousands of homeowners were left homeless.

This illustration at left is my attempt to explain the real value of investing, and ironically, Edelman grew up to be an investor in art.

The deceptive illusion of a successful economy is what happens when you have an intellectual elite that has been groomed and cultivated to be out of touch with the working class as described by Woodrow Wilson in 1909.
"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."—Woodrow Wilson
But at least in Wilson's time the lower class was understood to have value and Wilson provided some understanding of the value of the middle class and practical learning in the following.
"You cannot develop human nature by devoting yourselves entirely to the intellectual side of it. Intellectual life is the flower of a thing much wider and richer than itself. The man whom we deem the mere man of books we reject as a counsellor, because he is separated in his thinking from the rich flow of life. It is the rich flow of life, compact of emotion, compact of all those motives which are unsusceptible of analysis, which produces the fine flower of literature and the solid products of thinking."—Woodrow Wilson
The same can be said of a man of labor. His work may be an expression of intellectual engagement and a flowering of human culture, just as might be that of the academic. The most fruitful flowering is when both sides are expressed in and through each other.

In the meantime, my second grade student Oen worked more on his boomerang, carefully carving its contour like an airplane wing. He's worked on it off and on for weeks, and finally got it so that it not only came all the way back, but he had to duck to keep from being hit in the head. Imagine how exciting that was for him. Also imagine what it would have been like for you to have the attention and admiration of all the big kids in your school! That's the kind of experience that comes from wood shop.

So what's happening to the intelligence of our nation? According to this report, American graduates are equal to other nations' high school dropouts. How could that be? We invest heavily in schooling and get such poor results! Even in computer skills, our students are falling behind. Can it be that we fail to ask our children to do real things?

You can read about the Clear Spring School in one of our local papers here: Clear Spring School offers different approach to education

Make, fix, create, and extend the opportunity that others may learn likewise.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


My classes in Portland are gradually gaining students and I'm getting just a bit more prepared each day. Yesterday I milled the walnut stock for making miter keys that fit a thin kerf blade. They are thin and elegant. This morning I prepared stock for making wooden try squares like those used at Clear Spring School for my education symposium.
My classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking are nearly full now for this summer, but there are openings for about two or three students in my week long box making class. I still have openings at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts in July.

In the meantime, I'm supposed to sign contracts in the coming week or so for my Wisdom of the Hands Book and for a book about making box guitars.

You can see in the photos at top and at left, that my students are making progress on theirs.

In the meantime, the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers is in their 15th year and still going strong with two meetings a year. NEAWT has an advantage in having both public and independent school teachers as members. While many public schools are continuing to shrink or abandon their woodworking programs, many of the most prestigious independent schools in the US have regarded woodworking as essential to their school's culture.

We're working to see that other schools become that smart. We learn best, at the deepest level, making the most essential connections and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

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.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Charles A. Bennett

If anyone is interested in why the Manual Arts almost disappeared from American education it would be of some value to understand the full scope of its mission and history. Charles A. Bennett, in his  volumes on the history of manual arts and industrial education broke the history into two periods, that leading up to 1870, and then from 1870-1917. You might be curious about those dates and what they imply.

The earlier volume allowed Bennett to explore the roots and foundation of the movement, from the ragged schools in London to the thoughts of Pestalozzi, Froebel, Thomas Hartlib, John Locke, and so many others, including the Oswego Normal School movement in the US.

What the heck happened in 1870 that would cause Bennett to divide his volumes on that year? The world at that time was poised in the edge of rapid industrialization following the American Civil War. There was a huge need for warm, skilled bodies in industry, and the public, all over the world came to the same conclusion, whether in France, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, or the far east. All children needed to become educated in hands as well as in mind.

Bennett's volume from 1870-1917 told of the rapid expansion in industrial arts training that took place during that time. It begins with the introduction of the Russian System of Victor Della Vos, that was intended to develop those skilled bodies for industry that rising nation states needed to be ever prepared for war, and with Educational Sloyd that sought a means to extend the Kindergarten method into the upper years and thereby develop the whole child. These two systems using similar techniques had distinctly different purposes. During the last years of the 19th century and the beginnings of the twentieth, Educational Sloyd and the Russian system worked toward an uneasy compromise with an American version of manual arts training coming from a small school in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and the North Bennet St. School in Boston.

Yesterday I received my invitation to the 340th birthday celebration at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, that played an important role in the history of Manual Arts Training. You can read about their role in things here.

So what happened in 1917 that caused Charles A. Bennett to end his two volume history on that year? In 1917, American President Woodrow Wilson waded into the controversy that had enlivened the development of Manual and Industrial Arts Training, by passing the Smith-Hughes Act, which fed federal dollars into the field weighted heavily on career and technical education, and ignoring the implications of manual arts training in the development of the whole child. No longer would manual arts training be seen as having a broad effect on the whole of American education. Instead, it would only be offered to those who would not be destined for academic life.

This fit quite well with Woodrow Wilson's ideas that he had expressed as President of Princeton University in an earlier time.
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.
 Yesterday in the wood shop, students worked on their guitars and my high school students began learning how to solder so they can assemble the parts for turning their guitars electric. They are also ready to begin assembling small amplifiers. One of my students (second grade) has decided that she likes wood shop, and came in during her lunch recess to finish painting a tool box she wanted to make for her Paw Paw. The results are shown in the image above.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others an understanding of the necessity that all learn likewise.

Monday, March 07, 2016

intelligence and self-respect

Long before we human beings became aware of the great damage we've done to the forests and to the environment at large, industrial arts classes taught conservation and respect for the materials.  Because of the characteristics inherent in wood and its grain, it could not be successfully formed into objects of useful beauty without close observation. In woodworking classes, a direct tactile connection was made that had the potential of guiding students into a healthy relationship with our forests and to the planet. The beauty of the wood has the potential to awaken students to the wonders of biology, and to our human reliance upon our forest resources.

It made sense from an industrialized marketing perspective, and for the sake of exploitation of resources, that people were to become disconnected in their schooling and isolated from the real world so that they would learn to accept plastic laminate on particle board and other such degradations as being the real thing. Students learning the values inherent in craftsmanship and gaining an understanding of the beauty and value of real wood, might not be as accepting of the quickly made meaningless things that industries hoped to sell. The very idea of students doing real things would make those seeking to dominate the economy concerned over their loss of economic opportunity. Those with power in their own hands are no longer slaves to the market or the economy. They can make what they want and arise in intelligence and understanding as they do so. In that too, can be found a threat to the system that enslaves us to the endless pursuit of meaningless things.

In the early 1960' s my father bought a hardware store in a small town in Nebraska, and while it was not a good business decision, serving the people in that small town became our way of life. My time spent, weekends and summers, in that store as a very young man shaped my life in a variety of ways. First, it brought me into regular contact with farmers, mechanics, blacksmiths, and all sorts of people who worked with their hands. Their clothes may have been filthy as they came in from the field or work shop to buy nuts or bolts or a small tool of some kind, but I experienced their generosity, their kindness and of their self respect, which had much less to do with what they looked like and much more with what they did: honest workmanship that was always the strength of our nation.

Those who neither understood nor accepted the value of the hands in their own learning would have never understood its value for others. And so schooling became more and more academic, and left those of us who know that it could be so much more than that, very sorry for the overall loss of hands-on activities in schools. Shop classes, music, the arts, theater, laboratory science and other things that make schooling real are essential to its relevance in the lives of our kids.

Kim sent this link to an interesting article. Teaching Industrial Arts: Then and Now by shop teacher Steve Green in Southern California who notes that only kids not programmed to go to college are allowed in shop classes even though there are no aspects of the Core Curriculum that are not reinforced by them.
"The irony is respected studies have shown that without the use of the hands, we would not have culture, language, or even civilization. Another irony is the more you use your hands, the more neurotransmitters you will develop. Is this not a requirement for critical, college level thinking? Yet society continues to place less value on those people that work with their hands, and more value on an abstract university degree."
Was there a conspiracy in the wholesale destruction of wood shop programs? Perhaps it was just a case of incredible stupidity and malfeasance at work.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

the "sub-normal child"

It was always easier to get educators and policy makers to see the value of manual arts for the "sub-normal child." Smart kids on the other hand, are expected to escape into a more surreal  or esoteric realm. The following is from Robert Keable Row, The Educational Meaning of the Manual Arts and Industries:
As regards intellect, the most obvious symptom of feeble-mindedness is the lack of the power of attention. Now, it has been frequently observed that some form of manual occupation, the manipulation of materials to some definite end, is the best means of developing the power of attention in the sub-normal child. When a child can be led through some manual work in which he takes an interest, to regular oft-repeated experiences of this kind, day in and day out, he cannot fail to give attention and to develop a power and a habit of attention that carries over to other interests and activities. The reason is that the sensori-motor experiences give a body of images, related and associated, which become the raw material of constructive imagination, conception, judgment, and reason. From the point of view of his intellectual development, therefore, the best that can be done for the sub-normal child is to give him extensive training in various motor activities, including manual arts and industries. If the work provided appeals to him as worth while for its own sake so much the better. But if he seems indifferent to all projects some indirect interest should be appealed to.

Here again the probable future of the individual emphasizes the value of this kind of training, for, if the sub-normal child is ever to become independent, self-reliant, and self-sustaining it will probably be through some form of manual activity. – Robert Keable Row.
It has been more of a challenge to get educators and policy makers to understand the role of the manual arts in the cultivation of intelligence among those who are assumed to have higher than normal capacities. These policy makers appear to have made the false assumption that the hands, work with the hands, and learning through the hands is unnecessary, and is to be escaped as students journey into abstraction. But if they were to try to do real things with their hands they might learn a few things about the intelligence required to do so, and the value of it. Please watch John Cleese's hands as he explains.

Some smart people would be enormously discouraged each day by the  number of things they cannot do, were they not liberated from their sense of ineptitude by their assumption that those things are beneath them and are only to be done by those who are of lesser intellect. On the other hand, those things done by hand can be of enormous benefit. I heard yesterday of a woman who was trapped in her auto following a wreck. The EMT attempting to check on her well being her found her calmed by her crochet.

I hope that this blog offers sufficient reason for those persons to reconsider the absurdity of their position. We each learn best and to greatest lasting effect, when we learn by doing real things, and reality is best assessed, hands-on.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn like-wise.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

it can be a challenge.

Elm bowl by Buz Peine
Today I plan to run my upcoming classes through my head and provide a list of things that will need to be done prior to my arrival in Portland for classes on the18th. Planning these classes is more complex than most that I've done, as they want a series of classes rather than just one. I also have to plan for book sales and will place an order for books to be shipped to Oregon in advance of my arrival.

Yesterday we had a staff meeting and I was reminded of how much must be learned to become fully engaged in the culture of a school. With staff changes, the culture of the school and an understanding of the method behind each madness can often be poorly understood. The depths of a school culture can take years for a new teacher to assimilate and incorporate in planning. For example, we have a school travel program, but the idea of it is not to just throw a dart at the map and decide where to go next. The ideal is to plan what one studies in school to surround and embrace the off-campus learning. In planning for this year's trips, with new teachers, I learned that aspect had been missed. So the teachers have a wonderful trip planned, which will be educational without doubt, and of value and excitement but with  too little integration with in-class learning. Oops.

The problems is not with our teachers, however, but with failure to adequately assist the teachers in understanding the purpose of the travel in the first place. Travel is not just one more cool thing we do at Clear Spring School that makes the school unique. It is part of the school culture, woven through the rest of it, and to get that takes time. The travel is also an excellent resource to use in planning in-class learning.

My wood shop is a disaster in need of a thorough cleaning. So today I plan to use the tractor to haul away wood scraps and to make best use of a beautiful day. I have an editor from Fine Woodworking coming in June to shoot some articles, and as bad as the wood shop is messed up, and with my engagement in other things, it may take me that long to clean up.

The lovely elm bowl in the photo above is done by a friend Buz Peine and photographed by me yesterday for the Clear Spring School fundraising auction coming up next week.

Robert Keable Row wrote about the importance of manual arts training for the very young.
Because the sensory and motor impulses are unusually strong in the young children they present a condition that must be met.Generally the children will strive very hard to find some way of expressing these dominant impulses. If the school does not provide for their expression so much the worse for the school; it has a problem in repression. If it succeeds in repression so much the worse for the children. It is true that, under right conditions, many kinds of children's games do much for the development of motor control, but it must be remembered that play has its limitations. Play alone can never express the impulse to make, to decorate, to own, to design and plan, to produce something of value. For expression and development along these lines the young child needs much regular training in various forms of manual arts.
I have one student who has been a reluctant participant in wood shop. She is tool shy and inexperienced. She lacks confidence and often insists on just sitting while the other children are at work. She decided, however, to make a tool box for her grandfather. It became an exercise in attempting to get me to do most of the work on it. And so I did help to get the saw started in the right direction to make the cuts, and helped to fix some mistakes, and to get nails started.  If I had not helped, her shyness would have stopped all learning. But on Thursday, she got the box nailed together, and she sanded away splinters so the handle would be gentle on her grandfather's hands. Then came paint.

Yesterday she was watching for me and asked as I was arriving for the staff meeting if I could let her into the wood shop so she could work more on the tool box. "Sorry," I said. "You can't allow you to be in wood shop without me, and I have a meeting to attend." Perhaps she's learning that the opportunity to create should not be allowed to go to waste.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Friday, March 04, 2016

This day and how we talk about it.

I woke up this morning with a long list of things running through my head that must be attended to during the day. The Guild of Oregon Woodworkers has asked that I ship the prototype cabinet and boxes that will be made during my week of classes there, and so I've got to get just a few steps finished first and then carefully send them off in a crate along with other boxes I want to show my students.

 I became interested in N. Christian Jacobsen's discussion of form, in his book (thankfully translated by Barbara Bauer) I Sløjdsagen Et Inlæg, and particularly in the idea that a sense of form is a component in the development of intellect. The relationship between form and intelligence should not be a surprise to anyone associated with IQ tests that require you to observe various parts and indicate which fit together, which are the same and which are different. But in schooling, as it has become overly preoccupied with language alone, the subject of form almost never comes up. It should be a subject for all students but even students in the arts may never be introduced to it. When I mentioned Jacobsen to an artist friend I was told about Heikki Seppä in return. Seppä's book Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths is considered a classic among jewelers and metal sculptors.

Much of Seppä's book is filled with drawings of what happens when you hit metal with a hammer, and with descriptions and drawings of how to join parts, so it may not be of a great deal of interest to all woodworkers. But at the time the book was written (1978) Seppä was leading the movement from metal working being a purely utilitarian craft to one that hammered hard for acceptance at the doors of non-functional art. To do that Seppä suggested that metal workers do two things to overcome the limits of what could be perceived.
In metalsmithing, limitation of creativity can occur when artists neglect the basic characteristics of a metal. A thorough knowledge of materials and techniques is a direct measure of artistic freedom; the fewer technical problems that artists must solve, the more spontaneous their art will be. – Heikke Seppä
And so, metalsmiths were required to pound the heck of the material to carefully observe its properties. The other area in which Seppä sought a shift was in how metalsmiths would talk about form, as up to that time, the terminology used to discuss form was anchored in the terminology from the earlier era in which metalsmiths made utilitarian objects, cups, tankards, bowls, vases and boxes. The earlier language of form involved those specific shapes. In Seppä's view, the use of those terms was a form of stereotyping that restricted the craftsman's freedom in his or her exploration of form. Seppä urged metalsmiths to use geometry as a source for their terminology rather than generic names derived from functional forms.
...if for instance a domical form were needed as a part for a work, and the word domical were used instead of the word cup, the utilitarian connotations of the language would free the idea from the narrow limits of purely functional considerations, clarify the concept, and make the processes involved more readily understandable. But because artists and designers have not adopted the generic language, they are not yet taking full advantage of the vast potential for developing new forms that the plasticity of the metal affords. – Heikke Seppä
One point of contention came up in my reading of Seppä's work is that he seems to regard functionality as something to be escaped rather than embraced. I like that the words cup, tankard, bowl, vase and box might be used to describe form. But at the time Seppä was writing, craftsmen were attempting to find a place for themselves in an industrialized society. We are still attempting to find that place, though perhaps we might look close to home for the purpose of our creativity, and make useful beauty to be shared with family and community.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning likewise.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

who's smart and for what...

Yesterday we had brief sewing lessons in the wood shop, as my student Alena gave some of her peers their first chance to sew on a machine. We are making civil war style checker sets. The wooden checkers will fit into a bag for travel that also serves as a checker board. The point is that doing real things provides learning and integration between subjects, and helps the child make real world connections between ideas that would not be made so secure in artificially contrived learning environments. All things, and all subjects stand in relation to each other, but not as they are typically presented in most schools.

Most schools this time of year are tied up in knots over standardized testing. The high stakes testing regime plays havoc in most schools and in children's lives as expressed in this letter written by a teacher to her Kindergarten children, assuring them that whatever the forced testing tells them and however they must struggle to get through it, they are smart and they are loved.
"I know how hard you have worked, but there is something very important you must know," the sweet note read. "The ... tests do not assess all of what makes you special and unique. The people who create these tests ... do not know each of you like I do, and certainly not the way your families do.

"The scores you will get from these tests will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything," the note continued. "These tests do not define you. There are many ways of being smart. You are smart!"
In any case, testing and learning are two different things. Real learning takes place when kids do real things. The checker sets will be used when the students go on school travel across the state of Arkansas next month.

The chessboard and chess pieces shown are being crafted by a 7th grade student, with the pieces being of her own design.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning and living likewise.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

simple adventures in wood shop.

A first box
Yesterday I was in the office at school and one of my youngest students came in asking to use the phone. He was, at 8:30 in the morning, planning what he wanted to do in wood shop later in the day. He needed to call his father, a restaurant owner, and ask him to bring in a "to go pan," that the kitchen would use for carryout.

If left to his own inclinations, Oen would take home a weapon a week from wood shop. He's made swords, and knives and boomerangs, but the one string guitar he took home scored a hit with his mom, and so now he plans to make musical instruments for everyone in his family.

He came in to class with his to go pan, found just the right piece of wood and went to work. I have questions about how well the thin aluminum pan will hold up in use, but Oen insists it will work just fine. It will not likely be a lovely thing except viewed in the right light. The intention is to give his family the opportunity to make music together.

Each day in wood shop, students have the opportunity to expand their physical and intellectual capacities, and have effect on the lives of their families. The tangible evidence of learning that students carry home from wood shop is vastly different from abstract test scores, anecdotal tales and  depersonalized statistics. In other words, when something is made, it's not made up.

I am also  filling in holes and catching up on loose ends for the publication of my Tiny Box book. My editor asks, "where's this, please?" And I respond.

The photo at left is one that I'd neglected taking until last night.

Make, fix, create, and extend the love of learning likewise.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

virtue vs. virtual...

As you can see, my tiny boxes book is headed toward publication with the cover design nearly finalized.  I am currently receiving edited chapter text for corrections and review, with completion on my end planned for the middle of this new month.
 The following is from  an excellent resource for those interested in language and its origins.

virtue (n.) Look up virtue at
c. 1200, vertu, "moral life and conduct; a particular moral excellence," from Anglo-French and Old French vertu "force, strength, vigor; moral strength; qualities, abilities" (10c. in Old French), from Latin virtutem (nominative virtus) "moral strength, high character, goodness; manliness; valor, bravery, courage (in war); excellence, worth," from vir "man" (see virile).
For my part I honour with the name of virtue the habit of acting in a way troublesome to oneself and useful to others. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]
Especially (in women) "chastity, sexual purity" from 1590s. Phrase by virtue of (early 13c.) preserves alternative Middle English sense of "efficacy." Wyclif Bible has virtue where KJV uses power. The seven cardinal virtues (early 14c.) were divided into the natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and the theological (hope, faith, charity). To make a virtue of a necessity (late 14c.) translates Latin facere de necessitate virtutem [Jerome].
virtuous (adj.) Look up virtuous at
c. 1300, "characterized by vigor or strength; having qualities befitting a knight; valiant, hardy, courageous;" from Old French vertuos "righteous; potent; of good quality; mighty, valiant, brave" (12c.), from Late Latin virtuosus "good, virtuous," from Latin virtus (see virtue). From mid-14c. in English as "having beneficial or efficacious properties;" late 14c. (of persons) as "having excellent moral qualities; conforming to religious law." Related: Virtuously; virtuousness.
virtual (adj.) Look up virtual at
late 14c., "influencing by physical virtues or capabilities, effective with respect to inherent natural qualities," from Medieval Latin virtualis, from Latin virtus "excellence, potency, efficacy," literally "manliness, manhood" (see virtue). The meaning "being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact" is from mid-15c., probably via sense of "capable of producing a certain effect" (early 15c.). Computer sense of "not physically existing but made to appear by software" is attested from 1959.
What in the world happened to truth, goodness, and beauty as the primary components to a virtuous life? What you will find if you are astute, is that there is very little that is virtuous or pertaining to virtue in what we now refer to as "virtual" reality. The term is deceptive, and unrelated to high moral principles, which would include truth, and yet, our society is enamored with it. 
In contrast, Walt Whitman wrote the following:
The Sacredness of Work
The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere,
The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising,
The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places, laying them regular.
Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises, according as they were prepared,
The blows of mallets and hammers--Paeans and praises to Him! -- Walt Whitman
Can you see why children in schools ought to be doing real things, rather than being merely entertained, distracted and steeped in artificiality? The significance of the hands in learning is that they provide the gauge to measure and direct the implementation and development of mind.
Make, fix, create, and extend toward others the love of learning likewise.