Monday, April 23, 2018


At the local UU church yesterday, besides it being Earthday, it was my wife's and my day to supply snacks, do after service kitchen clean up, supply flowers, and offer a meditation during the service. With dogwood trees on our property blooming in abundance, the flowers were easy. For the meditation, I wanted to draw from my own experience with regard to Earthday. I attempted to juxtapose three things.

On the first Earthday, 47 years ago, I stood with 5 or 6 friends in a field near Hastings College (in Nebraska) and shared words about how it had finally come to pass that folks were beginning to understand the importance of the environment. We shared a sense of hope, even though there were so few of us from campus at the event.

Secondly, I noted that this is the one hundred and eleventh year of  plastic. Plastic began with the invention of Bakelite, which was composed of formaldehyde, derived from wood alcohol, phenol derived from coal tar and wood flour, derived from wood.  (They made other versions of the stuff using fillers of a more toxic variety.) Nowadays, plastic from even harsher petrochemical ingredients is everywhere and I noted that as I mopped the floor in the morning, the bucket was made of plastic, parts of the mop were made of plastic, cleaning supplies were in plastic bottles and plastic, everywhere in excess, is imposing a huge burden on all life and even enters the cells of our bodies.

 I noted that with plastics having had a fifty year head start, Earthday has a long ways to go to catch up. We need much larger numbers of people to recognize the needs of the planet.

My  third point was that in this month's Wooden Boat Magazine, it tells how to make your own wooden bucket. Would that not be a better alternative to the plastic ones we buy so cheap and that along with so much plastic crap causes undue burden on the earth and all life? In making our own buckets, the development of skill and integrity would take place.The effort would lead us out of the depression and anxiety that ail modern life. I finished with a poem by Langston Hughes, "In Time of Silver Rain."

So what's a man (or woman) to do? We carry on and make the best of things. We attempt to remember those things that are most important.

Make, fix, create and adjust your existence to learn lifewise.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

routing drawer guides

Yesterday I got a chance to work in my own shop, routing drawer guides in the sides of  jewelry chests. The drawer guides consist of two parts. A 1/8 in. x 1/4 in. strip of wood is glued in grooves cut in the drawer sides, and grooves in the box sides are routed twice to be widened for the strips to slide within.

The first routing is done between stops with a thin cereal box cardboard spacer between the work piece and fence. By removing the spacer for a second routing, the groove is widened just enough to allow smooth movement of the drawer in the groove. Is that something you can understand from words alone? Perhaps not. In all likelihood I might just as well be speaking French unless you are already a woodworker with extensive experience of your own. Even then the meaning of the words may escape you.

Words are like that. They are generally insufficient, except when some prior experience is involved and even then may lead the reader astray.The routed grooves shown in the photo were but the first. Each jewelry box side required 5 carefully routed grooves for the drawer guides to fit. The process required careful measurement and careful planning. This may help to explain why education based on language is not enough and why schools must provide various means through which students become usefully engaged in the real world.

Otto Salomon, proponent of Educational Sloyd, said that the idea of a class of students was a challenging one in that students come into a classroom with varying degrees of experience in the subject, some knowing some things and some knowing others, but rarely on the same page with readiness for understanding the same information at the same time. What's known by one is not known by another. What's easy for one is not easy for another. What's simple to one is not to another, and What's concrete to one is not to another. Even student interest will vary from one student to another.

This makes education much more of an art form than a routine process and it requires that the teacher's relationship to each student be strong enough that little stands in the way of learning.

Make, fix, create and assist others in knowing the necessity of learning lifewise.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

paint and tangles...

Yesterday my high school students applied more paint to our Bevins Skiffs, and my elementary school students ran with their kites until their strings were tangled in knots. Some of the kites will need new paper skins and to be rebuilt from the sticks up. Having exhausted themselves in play the students may not have energy for that.

I'm hoping that we all learned a few things. Not everything can be put in words. We form catalogs of ideas from which solutions are drawn. If you've been engaged doing things in the real world, you may actually have a leg up in discerning the truth from that which is false. In multiple choice tests, one may be able to intuit the right answer by being able to recognize the answers that are discernibly false, so those who have been brought up in the real world, doing real things have an advantage that has been measured and proven by educational research.

German Field Marshal Rommel was said to have fingerspitzengefuhl, which means knowledge even in his fingertips. It was said that he had an intimate grasp of the full field of battle in his head because his knowledge came from a deep engagement in real life. His advantage came from having both Wissenshaft (book knowledge) and Kentniss (knowledge derived from actual experience). And so it is on the latter side of things that modern education fails to produce effective learning.

Early advocates of manual arts training insisted that taking time for manual arts refreshed the mind, making it more ready for books, whereas those who insisted schools were only for the basics of reading and writing, insisted there was no time for such luxurious things as music, the arts and woodshop.

We learn best when our hands are engaged and not quite so much of the mouth is used. "Chronic diarrhea of exhortation" was Jonathan Baldwin Turner's description of the classic form of education where the teacher stands at the head of the class and spews words for all he's worth. He stated in his Griggsville address, May, 1850:
There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose."
Turner was considered the father of the land grant college, and all the great, large state schools in the US are indebted to him for promoting the legislation that created them.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Friday, April 20, 2018

this day...

This day promises to be lovely for painting boats, so first thing, I'll get the sanding blocks ready and paint stirred. A donor is supplying water testing kits that she will deliver to school today. Those will be used to test the water in local lakes.

A question came up whether to use student labor in wood shop to do fundraising projects. In the past, we've made some things to sell and raise money for our travel school program. But we must not wander far from student interest, and student learning. To use the wood shop as a fund raising tool must be based on a strong expression of interest from the students and my fellow teachers. Otherwise I'm put in the position of task master, quality controller, and cajoler, while students drag feet and miss opportunities for more effective, joyful learning.

If student interest is not present, learning will not be at full force. Joy is the measure. It's what you see when interest and learning are present in equal measure. We saw that on our first kite testing day.  (see photo) We'll see it again today as our students return to the field with longer kite strings attached.

Make, fix, and create... Insist that others gain the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

kite flying day

Yesterday during wood shop time, we attached tails to kites and short strings and took them to the field adjoining the school to give them a test flight. The kids loved the experience. Some ran with their kites until nearly worn out. We have some repair work to do on some of the kites. Torn paper must be either taped or replaced.

Mainly, however, despite some abuse (one was stepped on), the kites held up to fly another day. The children will be asked to give some thought to how they performed and what changes they would make to improve flying performance.

For the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, this project started out with a teacher's proposal that students design their own kites and then evaluate why they did or did not work. We found that students may need concrete examples to get them started in the design process.

Diesterwegg's precepts as described by Educational Sloyd were that you start with the known and then move toward the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

Students will now have a better chance of designing their own kites, having started with easy, from the known, from the simple, and from the concrete. It is extremely difficult to start out designing something from the mind alone.

The formula for success is easy, and was described by Otto Salomon in the Teacher's Guide to Educational Sloyd, much more than a hundred years ago. Who would suspect that education at large would learn anything at all from Manual Arts? But the manual arts suggest the way we all learn, and the way that education could best be planned.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that all students learn lifewise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

skiffs on Ozarks at Large.

Yesterday Ozarks at Large on public radio station KUAF broadcast a news segment about the making and launch of our Bevins Skiffs.

NPR editor Jacqueline Froelich visited the school as the boats were under construction. She interviewed some of our students and then attended on launch day for more interviews.  As a dedicated reporter Jacquie brought her own Kayak to be on the water with the kids.

The idea in building the boats is simply that we learn best by doing real things. If those real things can be planned to be of benefit to our communities, the students learn that they are important in the scheme of things. By doing diverse things, students discover their own skills and inclinations, as well as their hopes and are thereby led forward from within.

Today in the wood shop, my middle school students will be working on bird houses and my lower elementary school students will be making things from their own imaginations.

We will be applying more paint to the Bevins skiffs on Friday.

Make, fix, create and nourish the notion that others may learn likewise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

you can can't you?

Yesterday my high school students hammered copper into thin sheets, turned rings on the lathe, painted oversized scrabble squares, and did other things of their own creative inclination.

Weather permitting, we will return to painting boats on Friday. All of my students love "free days" best when they are allowed to work on the things that come from their own imaginations. I prepare stock, provide tools, and watch over for safe use of both. In addition, my upper elementary school kids, with my help, added bow strings and bridle strings to their kites.

I am concerned that as more and more learning is shifted from real life observation to flat screen, students are becoming less reliant on themselves, and more on externalized expertise. They ask, "Show me this." or "Do this for me." With the insistence, "I can't." And based on my conversations with educators at all levels (even college) this seems to have become the pattern in the digital age.

Along with making things comes a sense of oneself and the ability to intuit the truth from among right and wrong answers. I have of course, written about this before:

An old man or woman can learn to read, do it quite well, and enjoy it, but it is more challenging to keep creativity and the willingness to experiment in tact beyond the Kindergarten years (originally ages 3-8). That should be the focus of learning in school.

While planning for my Viking chest Class at ESSA in collaboration with Arkansas blacksmith Bob Patrick, I share the lovely image from the Cloisters, showing a painted chest with hand forged hardware.

Make, fix and create, while assisting others to learn lifewise.

Monday, April 16, 2018

sliding top top box...

I am documenting some of my projects at school in the hopes of sharing them with teachers, parents, and their children. This box shown is a box to hold and display hand-made wooden tops.

Today in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, my upper elementary school students will finish their kites. My high school students will continue working on independent projects and my lower elementary school students will continue working on toys and super heroes. Perhaps some will want to make a box.

Children are hard wired to learn and evolution has fitted them with the powers to do so. That power is most efficiently and effectively mobilized through play.  Parents and teachers have the duty to assist them in this enterprise.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

a lesson in knots.

Our lower elementary school teacher at Clear Spring has prepared a lesson in knots for his students to follow using sections of large rope. Not only will this lesson help to develop hand/eye coordination, it will develop spatial sense, and impart a practical skill and greater confidence. Would you "knot" enjoy knowing a variety of knots and their best use? Many adults are puzzled when it  comes to choosing the right knot, and even more puzzled when it comes to tying them.

Knot tying opens a whole world of connections.

On Monday we will be putting the bow strings and bridle strings on the upper elementary school student's kites. All should know how to tie basic knots, so perhaps the lessons learned by the younger students will be passed on. In fact, the lower elementary school students will be teaching knot tying to the older students at the spring camp out, using the supplies you see in the photo. The ropes were supplied by a parent who works in the zip line industry. For safety, the ropes used for zip lining must be periodically replaced and either discarded or put to less strenuous use.

The problem with teaching knots and knot tying is that a close view is necessary to see what is happening in a very small space between the fingers. Knot tying using string is hard to demonstrate to a whole class so the big ropes are a good idea, and with the children teaching knot tying to each other, each will receive individual practice and instruction. There's no better way to learn and learn well than to teach what you are learning to another.

You might wonder what children in schools should be learning?
Of course reading and math are important. But so are other skills pertaining to the real world. Friedrich Froebel, prior to inventing Kindergarten, engaged his students in making nets tied from string, which were then used in nature study to capture fish and small birds for close examination.  In Finnish Schools in the 19th and early 20th centuries, students made lace that is still shown to special guests in a museum at the University of Helsinki.

Yesterday I assembled 30 small drawers to fit 6 small 5 drawer jewelry chests.

Make, fix, create assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

dissolving the rigid boundaries of self.

The great illusion is that idea that each thing is separate from each other thing, when in fact all things are interconnected in both time and space. While naming things as individual items, or persons as individual beings offers convenience, that process hides from us, the reality of who and what we are.

For Friedrich Froebel, a large part of the purpose of education was to lead the child beyond him or her self, into the matrix of greater reality, Interconnectedness. Who am I, where am it, and how are we connected to each other are important concerns.

These days in education, the assumption is made that if a child can read, distinguish between words,  and add up the numbers of separate things, all is done. I assert that a child's education is only half baked if he or she is not brought full circle. Froebel used the songs and finger games of "Mother Play" to bring children into a full understanding and appreciation of community life.

The image in this post is an example. The lowly charcoal maker in a 19th century German town would have been a person children would be frightened of. He looked different and dirty and may have come from a lower class than the gentile folk. And yet Froebel celebrated the charcoal maker in heroic terms.

Yesterday I met with members of our local Democratic Party to finalize our preliminary documents for the local Democratic Party Platform. Having completed that task, we began brainstorming about ideals... not those things that are attainable at the present time, but those things that we might strive for as goals for humanity. We discussed the ways that we may serve each other through the instrument we call government. A very first step is what we're missing. To discover that we are interconnected parts of a single being is not something that some may ever be willing to admit. But returning Kindergarten to its proper place in our educational endeavors might lead us forward.

Today I will be working in my own shop on small jewelry chests of drawers that I set aside to do other things.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

Friday, April 13, 2018

rock solid...

Today a class in beginning woodworking with Steve Palmer begins at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

I am working on the last photo for my box guitar article in Woodcraft magazine. The art director and editor wanted a photo showing some of the less common tools and supplies necessary to complete the project.

From the top clockwise and centered around the fret marking template and fret saw, are tuners, fret wire in 8 in. lengths, small files for fitting strings over the bridge and nut, and the shop made 1/8 in. chisel I used to fit the nut into the neck.

There are days in which I have little to say, having already said the same things time and again about education: that it is necessary to have education hands on to have the greatest lasting effect. While I was in Hot Springs to make a presentation to the Hot Springs Village Woodworking Club, our upper elementary school and middle school students were there also. Their reasons for the  trip were to study geology (among other things, and they found lots and lots of quartz crystals for which the area is known. They and their teachers are off today in recovery. Each student will have a collection of beautiful crystals they will have pocketed from their adventure.

Reshaping education to fit the hands and to thereby better fit the minds of our kids is no easy task. But the idea is rock solid, in that children who have learned by doing real things are better equipped to take on the challenges of real life. Wood shop is an excellent way to introduce reality into a child's education. It may take all of us, an army of volunteers, perhaps, to assure that children have the opportunity to make beautiful and lasting expressions of learning and growth.

Make, fix and create.... Insist that others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

cat and toys...

I introduced another unit in making superhero because we have new students who had not done it yet.  That was fine with my students who  had done them before. They had plenty of other work to do, including cats. The toys made by first grade students are joyfully expressive.

I did a presentation for the Hot Springs Village Woodworking Club last night and will be on my way home to Eureka Springs this morning.

It was interesting last night, talking with the director of the wood shop from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. For those students who grew up with digital devices, many lack basic skills in the use of scissors, hammers and saws. And so things that we might think simple and easy, are not as simple and easy as they once were, and it is a mistake to expect basic skills to be present in students as old as college age.

So, this brings use to woodworking in elementary school. It is important that children's creative capacity of mind is reinforced by creativity in hand. Unattended, both can be lost.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Today, after class with my first through 3rd grade students, I head for Hot Springs to give a presentation to the Hot Springs Village woodworking club.

This weekend Steve Palmer is teaching basic woodworking at ESSA and there are still openings in the class. To sign up you can go online, or just call 479-981-1416. The class size is small, and safe operation of various power tools is a focus of the class. A beginning woodworker can take this 3 day class (starting Friday) and go home with lovely useful things he or she has made along with new skill and greater confidence. Your participation will support the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

The photo shows wooden wheels, some of which I bought in bulk online, and one that is shop made from stock acquired free from a handle factory. I have made thousands of the shop made wheels over the years. They are less than perfect, but give a distinctly hand-crafted character to the toys my students have made.  The manufactured wheels cost about a dime apiece from

After I've cut the wheels to thickness from round stock, my students at all ages can drill the axle holes themselves using a drill press. We use a lathe chuck mounted on the drill press table to drill at the centers of the wheel, but I'm also working on a self-centering marker for finding the centers of wheel blanks that will allow students, parents, grandparents, and teachers to make wheels from round stock.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to learn lifewise.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Yesterday in lieu of wood shop, I worked with my lower elementary school class to get bow strings and bridle strings attached to their kites. I reminded them, "these are made of paper, so be careful with them."  Needless to say, after running around the playground with the kites in tow, some repairs will be necessary.

I got in a supply of factory made wheels to show what's available to those schools, parents, and teachers who do not have the means or inclination to make wheels themselves. I am afraid fancy wheels will spoil my kids, making them less loving of the wheels they can make themselves.

If my students see something they like, they want to make it. So I get to play in the shop to come up with ideas that may inspire student work. Box making and toy animals are favorite activities, and so to combine the two seems like a reasonable thing. The picture is a prototype or "model,"  intended to spark student work, and what they do is usually better by their own assessment than my own. Models are also useful in helping the teacher anticipate the tools and materials that students will need in wood shop.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is creating an exhibit on the impact of Scandinavian design, and contacted me in search of Sloyd models from the history of Educational Sloyd in the US. Unfortunately, neither they nor I know of any actual models remaining from the earlier days. But the exhibit will present some information on Educational Sloyd and they've promised to use some of my published work as a resource in the process.

Toy making was not a thing done in the school at Nääs, but was featured in the elementary schools in Finland and Sweden.

I am reviewing the layout for an article in Woodcraft Magazine about making a box guitar and learned that they need one more photo that I'll take today.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, April 09, 2018

review of work...

I have been in the process of reviewing student projects and some of the photos can be pretty dramatic.

This week the upper elementary school students and middle school students from Clear Spring School are going to Hot Springs, Arkansas on a school trip. One of their activities will be to use the tools they made in woodshop to dig for quartz crystals.

I will be also be going to Hot Springs later in the week to make a presentation to the local woodworking group. I will be selling books, showing pictures of my work and encouraging others to take a hand in the useful education of our kids.

Make, fix and create.  Assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

yesterday and last night...

Yesterday we had wood carving club at ESSA with some new carvers trying their hands at it. There was an interesting discussion about what happens in trees during the winter months. Are they completely dormant or are other things happening within? Part of the discussion involved the formation of rings and the difference between northern grown bass wood and what we have here in the south with regard to its carving properties.

One thing that happens in wood is that as a season of growth ends, some of the minerals from the sapwood are passed into the areas of earlier growth forming heartwood which is darker in color and more dense. It may be that the colder northern climate increases this effect.

I spent part of the time building tool storage shelves in the ESSA wood shop closet and putting things in new places.

Last night I attended the Clear Spring Fling, which is a benefit art auction to support the school. The amount of effort that goes into it is enormous. The artists and local merchants give generously, The food is phenomenal, and the money raised by benefactors is essential to the operations of Clear Spring School.

Last night, one of the school's founders shared her father's points about the value of independent schools. One is that public schools are made better by the presence of a good private school. Another is that private schools are the laboratory of innovation. One that was not mentioned is that private schools are dependent on community engagement. Unlike public schools supported by the mechanism of the state that extracts school funding in the form of taxes, allowing public schools to go on with or without community involvement, you will find private school parents deeply involved.

Last night's art auction was a good example, and community engagement leading up to last night's culmination has gone on for months. While public schools have to search backpacks, and establish defensive perimeters, very small private schools like the Clear Spring School offer a different example in which the school becomes an extension of family life. You will see this in the school parking lot each afternoon at the close of school. Parents enjoy talking with each other and planning social things together, while their kids continue to play past the school hours, rather than being loaded into buses as is the case in our local public school.

Yesterday a reader suggested that volunteers might be brought into schools to assist in hands-on learning. I can not think of a better idea, or one more unlikely to be adopted by schools that have been hardened to repel gun violence. We need a cultural sea change... one in which teachers are regarded with respect, children are recognized as the precious resource they truly are, in which students are safe both in and out of school, in which schools become an extension of community and family life with few barriers between, and in which the rights of life, liberty, due process and the pursuit of happiness are protected equally for all.

With all that said, there are four simple changes that we should consider. 1. Reduce class sizes. There is strong statistical evidence that size matters. 2. Reduce poverty. The amount of time that young  people spend in poverty has direct measurable adverse effect on their educational success. The third thing is to support Hippy reading  ( ) to launch an army of young mothers  in reading to their kids. And last but far from least, make all learning hands-on, planned according to the principles of Educational Sloyd.

The photo shows a simple new way to sharpen a dowel to form the stem of a top. Put the dowel in an electric drill and use a common block plane to sharpen the spinning tip.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

marking the centers of wheels.

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School my students, grades 4-6 worked on kites. They had asked to work together in pairs, and that helped. My instructions delivered earlier in the week were not remembered exactly, even though they had used their own hands to help the younger kids make traditional paper kites. We arrived at the point where bow strings and bridle strings are to be added.

Today is woodcarving club day at ESSA, and new folks are expected to join. Today is also the day of the Clear Spring Fling art auction to support the school. You are welcome to attend and details can be found here:

I have been working toward being able to share some of the methods I use to prepare stock for woodworking with kids, and to simplify things that might be difficult for others to do. How doe one drill holes in wheels at exact center? What you see in the photo is a simple device that can be used to mark the center of a large dowel of equal size. Drill a hole for a nail at the center of a large dowel and use that nail to mark the center of a wooden disk of equal size.  The nail is loose enojgh in the hole that it can slide when struck by a hammer. With the center marked, drilling an axle hole at the dead center is easy. Use a brad pointed bit in the drill press for best results. To make the marking device, I used the lathe to turn the wooden piece and a drill chuck and appropriate sized bit mounted in the tail stock.

My students had been invited to design kites. What I learned was that they had few of the resources necessary to actually design their own. Some of those resources would have been: An understanding of aerodynamics. An understanding of how to get good performance from a pair of scissors.(The material needs to be held tight.) An understanding of structure. The ability to tie necessary knots. An understanding of the materials available and of the required strength of various parts. It was useful to offer them the design of a traditional paper kite as a starting point. To become a designer, one must first become a relentless, irrepressible observer of all things. That may require a starting point in the direct analysis of all things, even those things that are on the surface, too simple for words.

Analyzing this project using the principles of Educational Sloyd as a reference. point

Kite making was a project that met the interests of each and every child.
We found it best to move from the known to the unknown,
From the very easy to the more difficult,
from the simple to the complex,
and from the concrete to the abstract.

Now when the students design their own kites, they will have a better starting point.

These principles were shared by Diesterweg with Froebel, then by Froebel with Cygnaeus, and then by Cygnaeus with Salomon's Educational Sloyd. I share them with you. Whatever you teach or learn moves in the same sequence.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so we each learn lifewise.

Friday, April 06, 2018

A room full of kites.

The photo shows first, second and third grade kites hanging for the glue to dry. Next week we will add bow strings, bridle strings, flying strings and tails and then run with them to see if they fly.

Today my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students will make slightly larger kites. I've prepared sticks and am offering large orange trash bags to form the skin. Some of my students have come up with their own plans for kites that they can test using materials I provide.

On Wednesday we had 7 students grades 1-3 making kites and 7 students grades 4-6 assisting.
Today 3 student returned from being absent. After they finished their kits, that left the classroom full.  Fortunately, the students put their name on the kites so they can be taken to the next level.

Imagine that we did this simple exercise with as any as 30 students in the class. Preparing the materials for each student to make his or her own kite would have been a larger task.
Even with the older kids to help and with only 10 kites being made the challenge was real.

Research has proven that smaller class sizes bring better educational outcomes. But school is often more about student management than about student learning. If we put student learning first, we would reduce class sizes, train more teachers to teach and insist that lessons be presented hands-on, doing real things. Music, the arts, scientific experimentation, field trips, travel school, camping, woodworking, outdoor studies, internships, service learning come to mind. Those are offered at the Clear Spring School. Smaller class sizes allow for teachers to better know the needs of each student and customize instruction to meet the needs of each and every child.

This is something that every politician and school administrator should know: Smaller class sizes and hands-on learning together make better learning. You can cheap out if you like. The consequences of going on as we haven with large classes and students required to sit passively while lessons are delivered are students who are disengaged, and teachers who are overwhelmed. Together those lead to failed education.

In the meantime, president Trump is jumping into a trade war with China. A problem we all face is that of being overloaded with cheap plastic stuff that pollutes the planet and removes the incentive  for making beautiful and lasting things ourselves. That was the same situation that the Scandinavians faced in the mid 1800s. Cheap imports were flooding the marketplace and destroying the incentive for Scandinavian people to exercise and develop craftsmanship on their own behalf. Unfortunately, our nation is obsessed with the question, where can I buy this cheap? Perhaps we would be just as happy without so much cheap stuff and could begin learning to make for ourselves.

In the Scandinavian countries in the mid 1800's the leaders in both the Lutheran Church and the governments began to understand the relationship between the exercise of craftsmanship and the intelligence and character of the people. We all need to be engaged in making beautiful and useful things.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

paper kites...

I received a comment from a reader who teaches hands-on science, and feels overwhelmed by having 30 students per class and a total of 135 students under his teaching responsibility. What can I say to help? The following is my attempt.

Administrators rarely know that hands-on learning requires smaller class sizes to be most effective. So the question becomes how do you make the best of a difficult situation.

You may find the principles of Educational Sloyd to be helpful. Those are: Start with the interests of the child. Move from the easy to the more difficult, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract.

Kids these days have been sheltered from the kinds of things I did as a kid. While their fingers are busy sliding over glass, mine were tying knots, using scissors, sawing wood, building stuff with blocks and with clay, so I started with a base level of hand skill that some students will not have.

The good thing is that kids who have had much time in school will be ready for the refreshment that the hands provide. So ask yourself these questions: What would be easy for my kids to do? The hard stuff can come later. What do my kids know? And What do my kids know how to do? Use those things as your platform from which to build, even if it requires you to start over with scissors and string. Ask yourself, how can I simplify this project? You know that most things are overly complex, and deserve simplification. Complexity can come later. And how can I build this lesson in the concrete so it serves as a launching point for the abstract? Have some examples ready to show in concrete form what you hope to accomplish. Don 't mistake pictures of something for the concrete or the real. They are abstractions.

When in doubt, simplify. That is my favorite rule in woodworking. If your projects are overly complex, that will add additional complication to lessons delivered under less than ideal circumstances.

The reader asked how to measure the results of his teaching efforts.

That’s a hard one. I watch first for student engagement. Are they engaged in the lesson and at what level, and if not, I ask why… It may be that I’ve forgotten to take the principles of Educational Sloyd described above into consideration. I figure that if they are engaged, then they are learning at the level that's most comfortable to them, as learning is one of the most natural of all human functions. Kids look for learning and hope for it and are happy when learning just as you and I are.

If you are a scientist, act like one and explain what a scientist does. Admit and accept the fact that some lessons don’t work out as planned, just as life almost never does. Be sincere, be caring, for the student, their successes and failures as well as your own. Those qualities of character that you no doubt model are possibly the most important lessons your students will learn from their time in your class. Be sure to ask your students what they have learned. Have them write it down so that you will remember some of the best when you have rough days as all teachers have rough days.

The lessons of Wissenshaft and the lessons of Kentniss are not measured in the same way or learned in the same way, but they do reinforce each other. Research has shown that lessons in science that have a hands-on component are remembered longer and to greater lasting effect. Standardized test scores are raised more by the depth of a child’s learning than by its breadth, so some educators have been surprised by the results. I can explain why this is true. A brain immersed in the examination of reality is better equipped to discern fact from fiction and be led to the right answer on a standardized test.

Yesterday we combined 1st through 6th grade students in making paper kites. None of the students had made kites before. The youngest were paired with the older kids. Making a kite is a relatively simple thing, but requires the use of scissors, string, paper and some development of skill. It is also a science project in which they will test their results and learn from the process. All the kites are now hung in the window of the first through 3rd grade classroom.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

make it easy or challenging?

My middle school students will face a dilemma today. They asked for the opportunity to make bird houses. I acquired 5 1/2 in. wide western cedar for the project. A good source is to purchase dog-eared fence slats from Home Depot or Lowes. A single 6 ft. board is enough to build one house.

My students' dilemma is that I can make it difficult for them by offering the opportunity to practice their use of hand tools, or I can make it easy for them by making use of power tools and giving them little more actual experience than that of nailing boards together. The question, however, is not just a matter of easy or hard, or how much or how little they want to invest in the project, or how quickly they want to get done with it and move on to other things, but about how much they want to learn, and how much they want to express. Expression can come in the form of creativity, craftsmanship, or both.

So, this morning, before we begin work, we'll talk. The photo is from 2007.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

a whittling knife...

My high school boys have been busy crafting knives of their own design. The small walnut handled whittling knife is one of the finer examples. The blade shape and handle design were modeled after a small whittling knife I've used for years. Now, one student is making a chisel, so others want to join that, too.

Today I am working in my own shop some, then helping students at school with hydroponic gardening improvisation, and preparing materials for making birdhouses on Wednesday.

Make, fix, and create, thereby assisting others in learning likewise.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Interstitial space...

The discovery of the Interstitium, a newly named organ within the body that surrounds and cushions the other organs, offers an analogy for the workings of human consciousness. The name for the new organ, Interstitium, comes from Latin, meaning interval.

In the human body, seeing the interstitium has only recently been made possible by new imaging techniques that have revealed a structure of colloidal tissue that turns to mush under more direct observation.

We think of the space between us a empty, but instead, it is structured by patterns. Those patterns are the creations of ourselves and others, and they directly impact behavior. In the conscious space between us, that we cannot easily see the structures between us does not suggest that they do not exist.

Again, I go to Froebel, and his view of holistic reality. He wanted to lead children toward a holistic view and understanding of themselves, which required them to be led to understand the patterns of nature, of culture, of community and discover themselves as meaningful parts integrated within a much larger whole. Froebel had gained his own holistic view through the study of mineralogy, forestry and architecture, as well as by observing German mothers at play with their kids.

When I was in college, I started out in Political Science, and then began working toward a double major in Sociology. At this point, after many years as a woodworker, and teacher of woodworking, I find myself going back to what had interested me, but at a deeper level. Sociology is intended to explore the patterns in the spaces between us. Let us do that.

Today in wood shop at the Clear Spring School, I'll have my high school students, lower and upper elementary and will likely be worn out at the end of it.

The photo is of a robot cat made last week in the Clear Spring School wood shop.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

adding to workbenches

Yesterday I added small tool storage trays to the work benches at ESSA. This exercise was part of my plan to prepare the woodworking classrooms at ESSA for summer classes. The trays lift out for cleaning and will give an off the floor place to put tools, supplies and small parts.

Yesterday, also, I listened to a report about what some are describing as a newly discovered organ  in the human body. It consists of a latticework of collagens between the other organs of the body. It is thought to cushion the various organs, and to serve as a conduit between the vascular system and the lymphatic system.

Some say it is not actually an organ, but it deserves intense examination and research because it appears to offer the pathway through which cancers are spread. The name they've given to this organ is the interstitium (pronounced inter-STISH-um). In any case, whether the interstitium is an organ or not, it is fascinating that we are still learning about the human body, and that researchers had failed up to this point to give such a thorough examination to the spaces between things.

I find it fascinating that once one thing is discovered, we tend to use it to pry open the door to understand other things. We do this through the use of the human power of metaphor, using one thing to describe another. That power is exercised at a very early age when children are trying to make sense of language, and begin nothing the similarity between various things.

In several states, teachers are having to fight for their rights against repressive budgets that have cut funding to the quick. Arkansas' neighbors, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have been hit hard by the idea that by cutting, cutting and cutting taxes, businesses will thrive and the economy will grow, thus, raising tax revenue.  Perhaps they also believe in pixies. At some point, I hope we begin to acknowledge the importance of the role that teachers play and make certain they are trained and empowered to fulfill that role. We must recognize the important purpose of education that state policy makers ignore. Schooling must create  a sense of citizenship and recognize as its primary goal, that children know how to get along with each other. Let's call that interstitial consciousness. It offers insight into how children get along with each other, sharing either joy, or something worse.

If you would like to see joy, plan a visit to the Clear Spring School, at 10:15 AM or 12:15 PM when the students grades 1-12 are at play.

Make, fix, create, and enable others to learn lifewise.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

free range learning...

A friend sent this link to an article in the New York Times ( ) describing a new "free range parenting law" passed in Utah, that recognizes that allowing children to do on their own what they are mature enough to do, is not neglect. Parents in some states had been arrested and charged with neglect for allowing children to do simple things like walking home from the park. The free range parenting law appears to recognize that in some cases parents may actually know their children and what they are capable of doing  best.

In New York a few years back, a columnist had described letting her 12 year old son take the bus home alone from the museum (something he had wanted to do and along a route they had taken together many times before). Her big mistake was writing about it. Helicopter parents attacked her without mercy as being the worst mother of the year.

Yesterday I was in our elementary school classroom and took this candid photo of a desk where our  children work together. The photo shows small boxes my students made in wood shop, full of puzzle piece cards the students made. The puzzle pieces have a picture of an object on one side, and the object word on the other, and so you can see its a fun game to make them, a fun game to use them, and it's  an integrated lesson that involves reading, writing, manual dexterity, art, pattern recognition,  and spatial sense (an essential tool for the development of math).

An important function of the teacher in most schools is measuring and recording student performance. But when students are given the opportunity to do real things, they do not need a teacher to measure the results of their learning. Parents see it.  The casual bystander would see it, and most importantly, the students see it for themselves.

Make, fix, and create. Allow others the opportunity of learning lifewise.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Yesterday I drove to Little Rock and back in the same day to attend the Arkansas Governor's Arts Awards Banquet. It was a lovely event and I got to watch friends receive recognition for their contributions to the arts. I had been on the awards panel for the Arts Council and we had made some good choices in support of arts integration in schools.

One of my favorite awards was for an art teacher who's taught for 42 years in a Conway, Arkansas middle school. We awarded her a special Judge's Recognition Award, and I have to say that I'm very pleased we did. She seems to have touched the hearts of all those gathered in celebration of Arkansas Arts.

I arrived home to find that 2 copies of Fine Woodworking #268 had come in the mail. In it are an article I wrote on hidden splines, and one by my good friend Jerry Forshee in which he shares wood working wisdom he's learned from his own experience and from taking many classes with master woodworkers at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Jerry, as a retired University of Indiana professor in computer sciences, has a way of cutting to the chase.

Jerry and I have a strong connection. Several years ago, before Jerry and I had met, his wife complained to my sister Sue that he had been watching a particular woodworking DVD over and over again. Sue asked what it was about. Linda said, "Box Making." Jerry's wife and my sister are best of friends. The very small size of our worlds, in the way we intersect with each other is always a source of amusement, befuddlement and delight. I'm delighted to share a few pages in FWW #268 with such a good friend.

As he has done in the past, Jerry will be assisting me in my classes this summer at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. The photo was taken by Fine Woodworking editor Barry Dima, when he visited with me last fall.

Today I will teach kids at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Ozarks-at-Large features an interview from Sunday's 20th Anniversary celebration at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. You can listen at the following URL:

My students love building on platforms of thin plywood, and have begun building in collaboration with each other. They each contribute and encourage each other's ideas. They take short breaks from their construction to play inside it with the small dolls they have made. In this project, artistic judgment is exercised as well as some engineering. Spatial sense is used and developed. What do you think the value of this work might be? Aside from the amount of fun the kids have. In some school activities student attention may be brief. At the end of wood shop, it's difficult to get them to stop.

Today, I travel to Little Rock to attend the Governor's Arts Awards Banquet. I was on the panel for the Arkansas Arts Council that decided who would receive the awards in about 5 different categories. Our own former ESSA director Peggy Kjelgaard is to receive the Community development award, so I will be joined there by a number of friends. I will also see old friends I've not seen in years, but that are also recipients of this year's Governor's Arts Awards.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Happy birthday Mr. Comenius

John Amos Comenius, was born on this date in 1592 and was considered the father of modern pedagogy (the science of education). He observed:
"Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them."
What better play can we find for either boys or girls, than the activities found in woodshops? The most important point buried in Comenius' quote is the phrase, "now as this is very useful, it ought not be restrained." And the point is that our best leverage on boys learning is to make use of their most natural inclinations. We can say the same for girls as well. There's a saying that you can't push a rope. You can pull one to very great effect. By ignoring the nature of the child, we create education that is destructive, ineffective and least efficient. But if we were to use their natural inclinations to our best advantage, schooling would become efficient, effective and undamaging. If a great teacher in the 16-17th centuries could understand children so clearly, and if subsequent educational leaders like Pestalozzi, Froebel, Comenius, Salomon and Dewey understood children so well, why has education fallen so far off track?

Admittedly, having children do real things in service to their families and communities requires having smaller classes, more teachers and greater preparation than having large number of students sit idly at desks while lessons are administered. And so we have schools where the primary objective has become classroom management rather than learning and development. And now, according to president trump and folks from the NRA, classroom management should include ready access to a gun.

I have another new tool to be used teaching woodworking to kids. Anyone with experience woodworking with kids and the tiny nails required will know that nails get spilled and wasted, and it takes time to pick them up. The small square of  cherry, as shown in the photo, has rare a earth magnet embedded in the surface and provides an easy means to supply the necessary nails  for a project. Since my students like working in close proximity to each other, one magnetic block can be shared between two students.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that students learn lifewise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

a magnet stick

The photo shows a simple tool for holding a nail. YOu'll need to look closely to see the rare earth magnet embedded at the tip. Very small nails are difficult even for a child to hold and there's a tendency to hit the fingers. This simple cherry stick with a 1/8 in. diameter rare earth magnet embedded in a hole drilled at one end is a useful shop made tool for woodworking with kids. It takes only minutes to make.

Today I'll make another simple device using a rare earth magnet. This will be to hold nails on a workbench so they'll not end up on the floor. When I have several students in a class, each needing to draw from the same box of nails, nails are dropped and lost with the sweeping at the end of class. This will be to avoid that.

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, March 26, 2018

quick and classic...

Yesterday at ESSA we had a great turnout for our 20th anniversary celebration. I did a wood turning demonstration and made a Rude Osolnik style candle stick from walnut in about 15 minutes on the lathe. Rude made thousands of them. I've made few, but they are a good exercise in development of skill. Turning one is a good demonstration exercise for showing an audience something simple and delightful that can be quickly made and last for generations.

The human inclination is to make things complicated. Osolnik cut to the chase, removing the non-essential distractions from elegant design. An unexpected payback is simplicity in finishing the work. After turning the form, the removal of tool marks takes just a few minutes with sandpaper. The application of shellac only a few minutes more. A coat of wax polished while the wood is still spinning in the lathe brings the wood to a pleasing luster.

My audience was attentive. It was fun to pass the candle stick around through the audience so that each could feel it in their own hands. I think the audience was surprised to see it develop from a chunk of rough walnut to a finished form in so little time. Osolnik's candlestick form is elegant and expressive.

NASA decided that schooling is diminishing our student's creative capacities. I could have told you that myself,  as  there's been other research on the subject, but it is good to hear common sense from the authority of the Space Administration.

Spring break ends this morning so my classes at the Clear Spring School will resume.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that students can learn lifewise.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

what we saw.

Yesterday my wife and I attended a rally in Bentonvile, Arkansas in support of the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, DC and other cities throughout the world. There were right wing hecklers who tried to interrupt moments of silence held for victims of gun violence, but those folk were part of a tiny minority. Like the students in the national rally, the students from Bentonville and the surrounding area were well spoken and well informed.

What we are witnessing will (I hope) have lasting effect. The object is not to take away all guns. What we all want is for students to be safe. Not only in schools, but in concerts and on the streets, too. The ending of the plague of gun violence requires the removal of some guns, the end of a culture that glorifies guns, and the end of a reign of political power dependent on rigid adherence  to the demands of the NRA. If young people vote, the era of the angry white guy dominating the national discourse is kaput. Along with that, I hope will come the time when political discourse does not lead folks to scream at each other.

Today is Incredible Edible at ESSA, 3-6 PM. The various studios will be open for your enjoyment. I will be demonstrating on the lathe, and there will be demonstrations in blacksmithing, clay and paint, also.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

In solidarity with students

Today my wife and I will go to Bentonville, AR to march in solidarity with students promoting stricter gun control. The interesting thing is that tools have a tendency to be used according to their original intent. The purpose of an AR-15 as it was developed is to kill folks. It was developed as a weapon of war, and even though some claim it as a tool of "sportsmanship," real hunters would  not need it or want it.

This week, the New Yorker has an article about kids who own weapons and defend their rights to use them. They describe the power they feel and the pride they feel in the mastery of their weapons. They could just have easily been describing the use of a chisel, plane or carving knife, and would have thence known their creative, rather than destructive power. If we would put tools of creativity in the hands of kids, those tools might soothe worried souls, heal those who tend toward derangement, and give students renewed faith in themselves and in each other.

Congress refuses to control the distribution of overly dangerous weapons, and it also fails to acknowledge the value of real tools and the need for children to engage creatively and meaningfully in their environment. These students involved as leaders in the march have tried and tried to get their point across to deaf ears, too busy with meaningless moments of silence, and too strongly obedient to the leadership of the NRA to actually do anything about the problem. I applaud the children for leading us forward.

I have been attempting to get a grip on my new book in the works, on the Wisdom of the Hands.

The photo shows a simple box.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.,

Friday, March 23, 2018


As shown in the photo I have completed a wooden post card for auction and fundraising at ESSA's Incredible Edible Fundraising event. This Sunday we will also celebrate the organization's first 20 years. As I suggested to my co-founders 20 years ago, we did not need to start big, but we did need to get started. So we started as a school without walls and had only a few scheduled classes.

No we have a 60 acre campus and a number of buildings and are growing in service to our community. We are growing, not only because of our new wood shop, but because of a wonderful staff and volunteers.

Please join us at ESSA on Sunday, March 25 from 3-6 PM for our celebration. Unless I'm mistaken, I'll be demonstrating some simple wood turning techniques.

When I went to the Eureka Springs post office to select a stamp for my "work of postal art," I went through all the stamps available and selected the "celebrate," stamp to represent the celebration of our 20th anniversary. The card is made of layers of veneers. The outermost veneer is birdseye maple, and the inside of the curved form is burled and quilted cherry. Bid on it and it may become yours.

This is the third one in a series of cards done for Incredible Edible events over the last three years. It was hand cancelled by a postal clerk at the Eureka Springs Post Office. She told me, "you'll need more stamps if you plan to mail this." I told her, "this is art, and not to be mailed." Is it art? What is art? Is it something that touches us in some way that we cannot fully grasp or comprehend? Perhaps.

I have been working at ESSA, getting it ready for the spring and summer classes, and finishing walnut boxes in the home wood shop.

The plastic garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is now noted to be 16 times the size it had been previously thought. 
"Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year – the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck’s worth into the seas every minute for a year. Once in the ocean, much of this waste is pulled into huge areas known as the five “gyres” – one of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – where circular currents allow the trash to accumulate, circulate and slowly break down." 
It's a shame more useful stuff is not made from wood instead, and of sufficient beauty and quality to be treasured for generations. But that would require that we train fresh generations of American craftsmen. Are we ready? We don't need to start big, but we do need to start.

Make, fix, create and inspire others to learn lifewise.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

craftsmanship at home.

Yesterday on the way to ESSA I followed the truck shown in the photo carrying large logs being exported from Arkansas. Based on the frequency with which I see these trucks passing through Eureka Springs, there must be nearly a dozen trucks a day headed to Gateway, Arkansas where they are processed, sorted, milled, with some being sent to China for making the finer things we once made for ourselves.

On the one hand, for a poor state like Arkansas, it's good to see commerce. On the other, it's sad to see such large, beautiful logs cut from the hillsides of Arkansas, without furthering the development of the skills of our own folks. The color suggests that the logs are cherry. The largest one, occupying much of the front portion of the truck, was about three feet in diameter. That was a valuable load of wood which would have been of greater value developing craftsmanship at home.

On a much smaller scale, I've been making walnut boxes and a postcard to be sold at the Incredible Edible Art Show at ESSA on Sunday, March 25.  The event will take place in the wood and metals studio, from 3-6 PM. It also celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

To put things into perspective, the single load of wood would be enough to keep a single craftsman busy his whole life learning to craft beautiful, useful and lasting things. It will most likely be mulched into a stream of products, quickly made and quickly abandoned, without providing for the growth of American craftsmanship. When a craftsman is at work (I include women equally in this, as they are often better craftsmen than men), the individual's skills and integrity are developed and upon those features of human dignity communities form. These days, folks are scattered both in mind and heart. The hands and the skills and character derived from them have the potential of bringing things back.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

not shy about taxes...

It may feel as though you're working real hard. If you are part of the vast majority of Americans you may be working very hard to make ends meet.

Conservatives say "It's your money, and you should decide how you spend it." That's a  simplistic line that resonates at the polling place.

In the wood shop, I use tools others have invented, techniques that I have learned from others, and materials that come as a gift from nature. When someone buys my work,  or commissions a new work, they set me in motion making more, and so we can take the wood shop as a microcosm of the larger word. All things are connected with all other things.

If you assume that the government is a hungry monster of evil intent, and a reflection of all the evil people who surround you that want to take your stuff, you might get angry about taxes and any effort to raise them. So these days, folks being as angry as they are, no one ever proposes a tax increase. quite the opposite is true. The accepted mantra is cut, cut, cut, and along with cut, cut, cut comes steep and relentless cuts in the services we provide for each other.

I propose a tax increase, and my proposal is based on a broader view of humanity. I watch closely, and what I've observed is that people spend a lot of time caring for and about each other. We gather together to do all kinds of things whether we get paid for it or not. My base assumption is that people are good, want to do good things (like caring for their kids) and that they sometimes need help.

If you get to know anyone in government, you would learn that almost without exception, they are caring folks just like you. Government is the tool through which caring people work to improve the lives of each other in ways that we would be incapable alone. We are each personally enriched when we assure that the needs of our fellow Americans and community members are met.

Our governments, local, state, and federal are empowered to do good and to fulfill our goals for a safe, sane and caring society only when adequate tax revenue is provided. We are talking specifically about schools, libraries, roads, health, safety, and national security, none of which would be available to us without adequate taxation. I oppose tax reductions for those who can most easily afford to pay for the security and health of our nation, those who have in turn received the largest share of benefits from the society and economy built through the enormous efforts of earlier generations and by those working right now.

Yesterday I made a wooden post card to be sold at ESSA's Incredible Edible Art Show. Various artists have been invited to make post cards to sell. My own (once again) is made of wood. I've yet to affix the stamp. This is my 3rd day of Spring Break. Yesterday we met with folks from A+ Schools to begin planning their fall Fellow's Retreat in which those who train teachers to utilize the arts in their classrooms. In the Fall Fellow's Retreat I will have the opportunity to teach Fellows to teach teachers to use woodworking in A+ schools.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

At work in my home shop

Yesterday was the first day of spring break so I began taking photographs of materials preparations for teaching wood working to kids. The process involved ripping spruce 2 x 4's into material for box making. Spruce is particularly good for woodworking with kids, as it saws easy, and nails without splitting unless you get too close to the end or an edge. It is also available at most lumber yards. It sands easy, and being light colored, it can be decorated with markers or paint.

I also worked on walnut boxes as you can see in the photo. One of these will be used as a gift at the University of Arkansas and the others will be sold.

What is it about the hands that people don't understand? In addition to making us smart and standing in when other senses fail, they have a direct effect on our feelings of well-being. Kelly Lambert had called that effect "Effort Driven Rewards," and her research shows that when rats have to work for what they get they are happier with less stress than when life is made easy for them.  That explains a few things about us. When we are actively creating something by hand, we feel better. And so, since hand-work is a means toward mental health, that's reason enough for all children to do hands-on creative activities in school. If not woodworking, they should at the very least learn to cook and care for each other.

When Jacquie Froelich from our local public radio station asked what I hoped might be the outcome of our cane making project, I told her that I hope one of our students would see some elderly person at our local grocery store relying upon one of the canes they had made. That would be full circle.

In the few days since we delivered the canes, three have been given away by the doctors to people in need. At that rate, the supply will be exhausted in as little as 9 weeks.  That may give us an excuse to make more, or to make this exercise and annual event.

Today I meet with folks from A+ Schools to begin planning for a possible fall fellow's retreat.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the hands shape the brain...

A video shown on CBS Sunday Morning features two correspondents of mine, Kelly Lambert and Matthew Crawford. I have written about both before in the blog.  Matthew Crawford has in turn written about my writing, first quoting me at the beginning of chapter one of his first book, and then devoting the last chapter of his last book to explore the meaning of the same quote which 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. --Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
The video illustrates how the use of the hands actually alters brain chemistry, leading us to live happier and more productive lives. My earlier review of Matthew Crawford's book that I wrote for Northern Woodlands, can be found here:

Yesterday I rearranged wood drying at ESSA for my class on building a Viking Chest. It had gone from sopping wet, to 15% though having it stickered on the floor and with an oscillating fan moving air through the pile of wood for the last two weeks. It should go from 15% to 7% by June 15, being stickered in the wood rack as shown.

I also worked on a long overdue cleaning of my home wood shop and began preparing for photos for a new workbook, helping teachers (and parents)  teach wood working to kids.

Make, fix, and create...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

a fresher view.

Today in the wood shop, I plan to clean first and then cut lumber as I would in preparing stock for school classes. I'll have my camera set up to record the process of preparing to teach kids.

Last week was exciting. We launched the boats and delivered canes for the injured and infirm. This week, while the students are off for Spring Break, I launch the the building of a new book about woodworking with kids. On Tuesday I give the leaders from A+ Schools a tour of the ESSA campus in the hopes that we can work with them on their fall fellow's retreat.

There seem to be two basic ways to look at human beings. Some will adopt the position that human beings are bad folks, or that among among us are very bad folks, and then build walls on that basis to keep us apart. Another view is that folks are basically good, that we are generally safe in each other's company, and that we become safe and safer by caring for each other. I seem to fit best to the latter category. Life in a small town has led me to that position.

Here in Eureka Springs, we express care for each other through a variety of non-profit organizations, and if someone was to doubt the goodness of the human being or of being human, he or she would need to look no further than the efforts of so many volunteers and become convinced. People, even those who think poorly of human kind, feel inclined to give something of themselves voluntarily to others, even when they are gathering together to demand that we build huge towering walls between us. Even they offer evidence that I'm right.

Yesterday I went on a tour at the redesigned galleries at Crystal Bridges Museum. The curator had in mind that the museum could tell more than the standard view of American History. Diversity is the word we heard. That word insists that the paintings of the great masters of American art, be displayed in proximity to the works of others, equally masterful and as powerful in their skilled intent.

Now, alongside a famous painting by an American master, you may also find a relic from our indigenous past. You will find delicately beaded children's moccasins, and other lovely things. The beaded moccasins in particular tell the story of the great love that American Indian mothers felt for their children. Is that so different from what any other mother might feel? They also illustrate the tremendous pride they had in their work. Is that any different from what a white mother might feel?

Also, instead of only paintings and sculpture, some furniture is there, reminding us that great art is not only flat work or sculptural forms.  It does not comes only from one race or one class or one gender and can be made to serve as a part of daily life. There are those who insist on building walls between us, by assigning greater value to one gender, or one race than another.  Crystal Bridges seems to have launched itself in the direction of presenting a fresher view.

Play (in school and out) is the means through which we learn about who we are in relation to each other. The objects our students make through play are a part of this process, as you can see in the photo.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

sevice and community

One purpose of "formal" education is that of assisting the child in forming a sense of self within the larger communities we live within. First family, then community, then state, nation, and world. Within those communities are overlapping communities. We have the world of man, but also the natural world of plants, animals, physics and stars.

If you make an attempt to extract a person from within the matrix of communities in which we live what you would find would be protoplasm incapable of long term self-support. No man is an island unto himself. We are interconnected with all things whether we take all things consciously into consideration or not.

On Thursday, in addition to launching our boats, we delivered canes to our local medical center, where they were graciously received by Dr. Kresse. The event was covered by Jacqueline Froelich, reporter for NPR. Over a month ago Jacquie had interviewed our students in our workshop as they were crafting the canes. During the interview it occurred to me that at some point one of our students may be at the grocery store and see one of the canes they've made in use by someone either elderly or disabled. It is an important thing to know that you are an essential part of something larger than yourself,  that who you are matters to others and that there are inward rewards for being of service.

The following is from Froebel and Education through Self-Activity by H. Courthope Bowen describing a conversation between Adolph Diesterweg and Friedrich Froebel:
The night was clear, bright, and starry, as they drove home from Inselsberg to Liebenstein, and the beauty of the heavens had set them talking. "No one of the heavenly bodies is isolated; every planet has its centre in the sun of its system. All the solar systems are in relation and continual interaction with one another. This is the condition of all life — everywhere mutual relation of parts. As there above, in great things, unbroken connection and harmony rule, so also here below, even in the smallest thing; everywhere there are the same order and harmony, because the same law rules everywhere, the one law of God, which expresses itself in thousand-fold many-sidedness, but in the last analysis is one, for God is himself the law." "That is what people call pantheism," remarked Diesterweg. "And very unjustly," rejoined Froebel; "I do not say, like the pantheists, that the world is God's body, that God dwells in it, as in a house, but that the spirit of God dwells and lives in nature, produces, fosters, and unfolds everything, as the common life principle. As the spirit of the artist is found again in his masterpieces, so must we find God's spirit (Geist) in his works."
Have you not yourself, walked with friends along a pathway in a starry night and wondered at the billions of stars and the interrelationship between all things? You need not be religious to do so.

These days the concept of God no longer plays much role in secular educational thought. In fact, Adolph Diesterweg was an early advocate of the separation between schooling and religion. So the conversation between Froebel and Diesterweg is relevant even today. The idea that learning must lead beyond ourselves into feelings of connectedness with human culture and with the world of nature and of all else should be a simple matter of material concern in education. It is not necessary that schooling be tied to and utilized as a means of indoctrination in particular religious faiths in order to lead students to a sense of their own connectedness.

The child must learn to get along with others. The child must learn to be respectful of human rights and be led to shoulder the burdens of adult responsibilities. The child must learn to see self in others and discover his or her place in the wholeness of all life. The child must learn to care for the planet on which we all live. And so whether or not a school is secular or non-secular, the responsibilities are the same, and even without reliance on the concept "God," children can discover both morality and what Froebel identified as "connectedness."

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.