Monday, November 19, 2018

the power of the object

Typically in schools, students rarely ask if they can take their work home. Why bother? But when it comes to things kids have made in wood shop, they ask, "May I take this home?" Why's that? Could it be that they feel they've arrived at a level of mastery in what they've made? Could it be that they, having tangible evidence of what they've learned, want to share it with their parents and siblings? Can it be that they find joy in what they've made and want to maintain possession of it and what they have learned?

David Henry Feldman, in his essay, "the child as craftsman" was inspired by his study of gifted and talented children to note that ALL children have a desire to express confidence and skill. There is no better way to do so than through the making of real things. And so, on Friday afternoons when I have Kindergarten students in the Clear Spring School wood shop, they ask, "Can I take this home?"

The object can be a simple thing, a toy car, a boat, a flag pole or a color wheel. They may have had some help with the work, as it would be a rare thing to have the skills and knowledge to do the work alone and by themselves. But the pride of craftsmanship is a serious thing that is too often lacking in public education. I hope to reverse that loss, and build upon what's most natural to the child. They each want to acquire demonstrable expertise. They each want to share what they've learned with family. And if the objects are useful in some way, they want to take them home to use and to demonstrate, and to allow others to join them in that play.

When Otto Salomon designed the various model series for Educational Sloyd his choice of making beautiful and useful objects was to gain parental support for education during a time in which children's toil was required on the farms. To give up a child to education required that schools earn trust. So making objects that were useful in the home became a means to establish that trust, and to assure parents that their children were becoming not only smart, but useful in school.

Where is that concept in modern American education? Join me please in an effort to restore.

Make, fix and create...

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