Friday, March 22, 2019

verisimilitude

For some time I've been trying to explain political reality from a manual arts perspective. There are a few folks I've referenced in previous blog posts that may help you to sort out and dig deep. One is Joe the Plumber. ( each of these can be found by using the search function of this blog, found at upper left) Another is Karl Popper whose concept "verisimilitude" can also be useful in digging deep. For facebook readers, you'll have to go to the blog, http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com

What follows is a blog post from WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2010

Narrative and reality

Jerome Bruner's article "The Narrative Construction of Reality" suggests that narrative plays an important role in how man "achieves a 'true' knowledge of the world... that is to say, how we get a reliable fix on the world, a world that is... assumed to be immutable and... 'there to be observed'." (we develop narratives and then chat in our own heads and with each other about them) But it should be noted that belief and reality often differ.

In my continuing interest to explain the narrative function of crafts, I want to address one minor point of comparison. In discursive narrative, verisimilitude, or what Stephen Colbert called "truthiness" is completely acceptable. In my interpretation of Bruner's article, discursive narrative may be based on real events or fictional, without diminishing our use of it to establish belief or to portray reality in shaping the beliefs of others. A great example is when Ronald Reagan used his movie characters' "experiences" as being valid in explaining and rationalizing positions he took in office as president.

In political narrative, it has become completely acceptable to just make stuff up. I want to compare this with craftwork as narrative expression. Crafts are not about making things up, but about making real things. Narrative, as used in politics, religion and entertainment creates belief based on verisimilitude, on ideas that may appear to resemble truth from certain psychological predispositions but may not be able to pass full muster of physical reality.

In other words, in discursive narrative, you get to make stuff up. In crafts, you make beautiful and useful stuff instead, and if you are interested in reality, there is no substitute for the real thing, and I'm not talking Coke.

There is an honesty in craft work that is missing in too much k-12 and university education, and the results can be disastrous for the entire society. The following is from Charles Henry Ham's book, Mind and Hand, 1886:
"It is thus that the trained hand comes at last to foresee, as it were, that a false proposition is surely destined to be exploded. The habit of rectitude gives it prescience. It invariably discovers, sooner or later, that a false proposition, when embodied in wood or iron, becomes a conspicuous abortion, involving in disgrace both the designer and the maker. A false proposition in the abstract may be rendered very alluring; a false proposition in the concrete is always hideous. One of the chief effects of manual training is, then, the discovery and development of truth; and truth, in its broadest signification, is merely another name for justice; and justice is the synonym of morality."
I find it interesting that Karl Popper, the philosopher who came up with the concept "verisimilitude" had an early career in a cabinet shop that he described as being his launch into the realm of philosophy.

Today in the woodshed, I'll be working on a table base.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, March 21, 2019

experience first then build belief...

I did rather well on standardized tests when I was in school. The multiple choice answers on the tests were either right or wrong, and the fact that my parents gave me some practical experience outside school gave me the ability to sift out the answers that were patently false. If you can recognize that which is wrong on a standardized test, the correct answer is much easier to discern.

At that time, standardized tests were not such a big deal that anyone would obsess about them. We just went to school with our pencils sharp. We were told that the test results were not to be shared with others. At that time in the Omaha public schools the administrators were starting to be aware that the competitive culture around standardized testing that would later arise was not to be a good thing. And now, with our testing obsessed culture, we've allowed educational policy makers to really screw things up.

Kim Brand reminded me of an article I'd written 10 years ago about Kentniss and Wissenshaft and the rise of what is now called fake news.
https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2009/07/wissenschaft-and-kenntnis.html The problems we face have gotten worse and I don't think it took much imagination to know the direction we were headed. We believe we must pick and choose our belief systems (established by others), rather than relying on experience to establish belief.

The foundation for all this was laid in religion. We were told to believe like sheep in things we could not see or understand, and once trained for that, were told that one truth was just as good as another, but that we should battle out between ourselves and in our own heads which would drive the direction of things.

On the other hand, and in the real world, working with real tools, real materials, with real tasks at hand and while attempting to express beauty, usefulness and sincerity, we may be led to observe and draw conclusions on our own. So manual arts were the place we  only put kids who were at less risk of wrestling with the big ideas that come when the brain and hands are put in harmony with real life.

Rousseau had said "Put a young man in a wood shop and his hands work to the benefit of his brain, and he becomes a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman." That happened to me. But there's a great risk to putting smart people in work shops where they are inspired to think for themselves by directly observing the reality that surrounds us. They might become revolutionary and then threaten the prevailing thought.

Today I will sand boxes and begin the process of building a table base.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

our little free llibrary.

If you go to https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/ and then type our Little Free Library charter registration number in the search block, you can find the Clear Spring School Little Free Library on the map.

The charter registration number is 85348. Better yet is to find it in real life at these geographic coordinates: 36°24'30.2"N 93°44'41.6"W or 36.408400, -93.744889 Put either form of the coordinates in your phone or car GPS and you'll be led right to it. You can also find it on the map using our zip code, 72632 or the name Clear Spring School.

Today in the wood shop I'll assemble boxes and begin work on a table base.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

each and every child

This 20 year old article by Alfie Kohn might help you to understand why he's been a trusted name in progressive education.  https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/kid/  The point is that these are not your kids or our kids, but our children, and we each share a responsibility to each one. The news of elite parents gaming the system to get every possible advantage for their own children is nothing new and is perfectly reasonable to fearful minds. Each child is important that we have a responsibility to all children.

Clear Spring School was founded over 40 years ago with a mission that differs from that of many of the private schools that sprang up across the nation in the wake of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling by the supreme court that was intended to bring an end to school segregation. While many private schools were established to maintain segregation, and to maintain the advantage previously given to white children by segregated schools, The Clear Spring School was established to offer a model of education in which each and every child was afforded the recognition and opportunity each child deserves and enabling the success of each child upon which our society depends. The point was not to be exclusive, or to keep some out, but to serve as a model from which all children would ultimately be served.
What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.— John Dewey, School and Society
Brown vs. Board of Education was an extreme measure in response to an extremely ugly problem... that of a society deeply divided along racial lines. The court decision brought  school busing and the politicization of the educational landscape, with politicians of both parties vying for control of local and state school boards. If you read the national news, we are still a long ways from returning the focus of education to the child. Politicians have all kinds of ideologically inspired notions that have little or nothing to do with the needs of our children.

Today I gather materials for building a table.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, March 18, 2019

get back pocket cat... woodworking is where it's at

Yesterday I registered our little free library so it will go on the map at Littlefreelibrary.org. The photo shows the prototype "pocket cat" I made for Friday's Kindergarten class. It is little more than a hint of a cat and quickly made but was instantly recognized by the kids wondering, "What will we make today?" And responding, "YES, I want to make that."

It is nothing more than a small block of wood with 1/8 in. holes drilled in it for bamboo skewers to fit. We use small snipping pliers to trim the skewers to shape to form the ears and tail.

This is spring break week at the Clear Spring School. I plan to use my time to assemble boxes. I've also been clearing and cleaning in the wood shop to have room to build a large dining table.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn from real life. It's rewarding.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

two events...

Mark your calendar & join us for an Art Extravaganza on March 31, 3-6 pm, in ESSA's Wood and Iron Studio!

I will have two woodworking activities for guests in the wood shop. One will be making a very small set of Frank Lloyd Wright's Nature Pattern Blocks. Sawing and sanding will be required. The other will be crafting a Sloyd trivet from Gustaf Larsson's book Elementary Sloyd and whittling. A question, my youngest students ask, "Do I get to keep this?" Yes you will keep the things you've made, maybe for generations.

The other event I want to invite you to is the annual Froebel education conference in Boston, October 5 and 6, 2019 in Boston. Many important educators have been invited to speak. http://froebelusa.org/

Make, fix and create...

Nature Pattern Blocks

A friend, having heard a talk I gave at the UU Church in Eureka Springs, gave me this set of Frank Lloyd Wright Nature Pattern Blocks. As I've described before, Frank Lloyd Wright became an architect having grown up with the blocks invented by Froebel. His mother had attended the 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia at which a Kindergarten classroom had the following effect described by Nina C. Vandewalker in her book  The Kindergarten in American Education, 1908:
"The Exposition kindergarten was conducted in an annex to the Woman's Pavilion, by Miss Ruth Burritt of Wisconsin, who had had several years of experience as a primary teacher before she became a kindergartner, and whose manner and insight were such as to gain adherents for the new cause. The enclosure for visitors was always crowded, many of the on-lookers being "hewers of wood and drawers of water, who were attracted by the sweet singing and were spellbound by the lovely spectacle." Thousands thronged to see the new educational departure, and many remained hours afterwards to ask questions."
Wright's mother was among those mesmerized and inspired. The Kindergarten method of learning is not to be confined to the early years. We all learn best through play, and as Wright noted in his later years, "I can still feel those maple blocks in my hands to this day."

I do not believe these blocks are currently available. They should be.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

bridge and pocket cats

Yesterday in wood shop my 5-6 grade students helped to finish the bridge and to decorate a bench leg on the lathe.

My Kindergarten students made tiny pocket cats.  I made a couple prototypes as usual, and was pleased that the Kindergarten students immediately recognized what they were and wanted to make them.

I left my phone at home to charge during the Kindergarten class, so I have no photos of that class.  To make a pocket cat requires decorating a small block of wood with markers to serve as the cat's body, then drilling holes for 1/8 in. dowels to fit as legs, tail and ears. The kids decided where these parts would fit, then drilled the holes in the chosen spots, with me holding the block of wood while they operated the drill press.

When the cats were complete, they insisted that their cats be further customized. One boy wanted wings on his, while another, claiming the cat was not toy but part of a "collection," chose to mount his on a block of wood to serve as a base. Many of my students have collections of their work, and what better time is there to start than in Kindergarten where they can learn to get things of interest through their own labor?

You may recognize our dog Rosie helping with the bridge.

This is the start of Spring break at the Clear Spring School. I'll spend my time working on boxes and launching a table project.

Make, fix, create. Build human culture and the fabric of community by choosing to learn likewise.

Friday, March 15, 2019

chapter 11

I learned in the past few days, when I got a royalty statement from F&W publication, and no check came in the following days that the company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the state of Delaware. When I started my first books, F&W Publications was a family owned enterprise. F stood for farm and W stood for writers, and the initial thrust of the business was to cater to those two areas of need: Publishing in support of small farms and writers. That was about a hundred years ago. The founding family members happily sold out to investors and the new CEO announced at a staff meeting that the business would be a perfect fit for him. He could run the business (after selling off assets) from his beach house in the Bahamas.

According to the bankruptcy narrative presented to the court, the company had made a few fatal mistakes. Over a period of years they'd made relentless efforts to get much bigger fast. Then the killer was to get deeply involved in e-commerce for which they were ill-prepared. Since they were one of the major publishers of niche craft related books, they thought they could expand their market by selling craft related products, taking the customer trust they had earned and leverage that into competition with other online retailers. That involved building an unreliable internet system that greatly disappointed customers, and renting warehouses to hold all the stuff they couldn't sell through an unworkable platform.

When the first non-family owners had severely botched business, the second round was Citi Bank, and then a descending spiral of big idea banker type folks all with the small minded idea of selling off non-essential assets so they could do more stuff unrelated to the founder's intent.

Of course, part of F&W's problems have been related to the rise of free unedited materials offered through the internet and youtube in particular. Why should anyone have to pay for anything other than their connection fee to Verizon or AT&T? I assert that there is still a place in the world for well-edited good books. It's easy to make cheap content, and to fill the internet with crap. It's more of a challenge to make good books. And there is a value to the latter. The shame in F&W's case is that they could have continued to make good books. Perhaps Chapter 11 Bankruptcy will allow them to return to the mission that gave them their start. There's a lesson here. When businesses wander far from their founder's intent, things have a way of "getting out of hand."

F&W gave me the chance to write my first three books. So they have a dear place in my heart and I wish them success. My first three books are now out of print but we did a more recent compilation of projects from my first two books. It is "25 Beautiful Boxes." You can find it on Amazon or can contact me directly for a signed copy.

Make, fix, create, and hope for the sake of human culture that all learn to learn likewise.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

one in twelve...

The scandal of rich folks using bribery and fraud to get their kids into college has brought to light some of the pressures that children and parents feel. No one could fault a parent for wanting the best for their children, even if that parent is delusional about what a child might actually need (like character and the self-respect one earns through doing real things of value to their communities as examples). Perhaps you can excuse a few folks for not imparting to their kids what they have not earned or learned themselves.

On the other hand, one in 12 students go off to college with suicide plans in hand. The pressures are enormous. Parents want bragging rights they can claim from their children's success, and success in this disrupted society requires college.

They've advertised and promoted this for years, even on TV. How many times have you heard that college graduates make twice as much money as those who do not get college degrees? And so the solution they propose is that all kids, by necessity, must go to college whether they are ready and mature enough to be successful at it, even if that means elbowing more deserving kids out of the way.

We might take a different approach like that taken in the Nordic countries. Incomes are more uniform, so that all (even teachers) make reasonable incomes, and parents have much less to worry about. Here in the US, college graduates make twice as much and corporate CEOs make up to a thousand times more than that.

In Educational Sloyd, one of the objectives was to foster a societal sense of the dignity of all labor. This was not to create a two or three tier society, but to build a society in which all människor,  (human beings) would be treated with respect, and democratic principles would thrive. We seem to have gone willingly in the wrong direction, and our children pay the price. Suicide, drug addiction, and student debt.

It interests me, that manual arts training in schools would build that sense of the dignity of labor, but also provide a path toward the development of character in all our youth. Between senseless degradation of our natural environment, suicide and opioid addiction, our children suffer, and few see that the answer is at hand.

The photo shows one of my students with an airplane he made in yesterday's class. The working propeller is a special touch.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

service does that.

While a few desperate housewives may cheat as best they can to get their kids into colleges they think their children must have whether they've earned it or not and thus deprive them (their children) of choice and the system of universities of their legitimacy and fairness, the idea that all children must go away to college in order to find fulfillment is based on the idea that the only place success can be found will be in the larger world beyond the humdrum walls of our own communities.

If you actually look at small communities like my own, you find folks itching to serve one another and to actually make the world a better place. Service connects us with each other. That may not be known by those in northern cities where folks may itch to escape winter on the one hand or anomie on the other. Folks move around a lot and may never become fully connected. Corporate ladders do that. You may get yanked around one place to another and be happy about it because each step brings more money, power and glitz. Financial success can do that. You may have your eye on fresh and larger properties (the owning of which make you appear hot), or a place to go during the winter months (or summer for that matter). Getting the hell out or away has become a mark of success, whereas fitting into the ponderousness of small community life is not.

 Perhaps it is simply time to reassess. Take a fresh view. When you begin to realize that the hands themselves are not dull instruments, but are thoughtful creatures on their own, that can be listened to and trusted, you may place more attention on the small things that actually matter in the creation of a sense of place and appropriateness of place for the rest of you. You might find for a change that you fit and fit in. Service does that.

We have may have a terrible view of human culture at this point, if you look through the lens of the internet and through broadcast media. Life from that vantage point is about big, fast and glitz. In small towns like my own, folks work hard to be of use to each other. That, my friends, is what's called the fabric of human culture.

 The interesting thing that might happen from a fresh, hand-centric view would be that instead of home becoming the hell you hope to get the hell out of, home might become a better place. Perhaps we should take time to reinvest in each other and see what happens next.

I have a full day of classes planned at the Clear Spring School.

 Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

is that love?

Last week my local Arkansas State Senator proposed a change in Arkansas state law that would have given white folks with guns the right to shoot and kill unarmed black children and teenagers if they "felt" threatened whether they were actually threatened or not.

"He got out his cell phone, your honor, and I thought it might be a gun."

The legislation would have given adrenaline charged white folks the right to "stand their ground." Another State Senator in committee was pushed to the point of outrage, over fear that the change in legislation would put her own son and the children of her constituents in even greater danger.

My local legislator was outraged by his opposing legislator's outrage and threatened to file complaints against her behavior. I emailed him to express my concern at his failure to grasp the depth of the situation and to urge him to put himself in her position. In response, he claimed that she should have been calmed my his verbal assurance that "he loved her."Does anyone have a fully functioning meter to measure BS? My own meter was buried in red.

Love, if it's to be believed is never expressed in words alone. In fact, when a child invests in the making of useful beauty, the child is practicing what it takes to be woven into the fabric of community life. When the parent receives gifts made by that child and responds with grace and admiration, threads are made whole.

Tim Holton had written to David Brooks of the New York Times, urging him to read a couple posts from this blog. Tim was inspired to write David by a piece David had written in the New York Times about weaving and the construction of "radical mutuality". https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/18/opinion/culture-compassion.html We all share in the responsibility to reconstruct the fabric of community life. Tim had written to David(in part):
"The essence of Doug's message here is that the actual fabric that manual labor provides society is no mere metaphor for the social fabric, but the very substance of it. Nothing significant is ever made without the purpose of serving others, without the maker having in mind, and having in his or her heart, the needs of others. That, I believe, is the real root and basis of “radical mutuality,” as you call it. More than anything, it has been by degrading and denigrating manual labor (and steering our children away from it, as Mr Stowe’s work as a teacher emphasizes), that we have shredded the social fabric. Before the thing that we call “love” becomes a feeling, a sentiment, it is a deed."
And so I go back to our local Arkansas State Senator. How can he say "I love" someone without loving her son by protecting his life? How can a person represent the people of Arkansas while putting some of us at greater risk, black or white? Are black kids the only ones killed by adrenaline charged gun wielding fearful fools? I cheer the State Senator who stood up in committee and insisted on being heard.

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we nearly finished the bridge connecting our athletic field with the new Hands-on Learning Center. My students first through 4th grades made wooden hammers, and my upper middle school students worked on the lathe. The photo shows a first grader using a plane to shape his hammer handle. They must work, but also observe and reflect. And when one student mentioned the physical work we do in wood shop, she pointed to her head.

Make, fix, and create as though the fabric of society depends upon it. It does.

Monday, March 11, 2019

the work of the artist.

The real work of the artist is not the making of works of art, but of building community. That differs in no way from the real work of of humanity. Some fail to discover their real work. It is easy to be distracted or to be left unhinged... to have not formed the bonds that weave one into the threads of community life.

These days folks move around a lot. They may have been injured, in the way that so many are. Poor parenting, bullies in school, poverty of resources or of spirit. So folks move around looking for something that's better, only to find what's inescapable. If you seek community, you must take part in the building of it. A person would be unlikely to stumble upon it ready made. You must weave yourself in.

In the Ozarks there was a kind of material woven by early settlers, called linsey-woolsey. The warp was linen, giving strength, and the woof was wool, giving warmth, and to be woven into the fabric of community requires time, and effort to find one's place among the threads.

There is a relationship between the use of the hands and the building of community. The hands connect us with each other through the making of things, but also in the expression of care and concern. Small acts, more than anything we might say, are the powerful force that binds us into forms larger than ourselves.

I have a day full of classes.

Make, fix and create...


Sunday, March 10, 2019

nature my college.

"Nature," said Froebel, "was my college, the tree my principal, the nursery my university, and children my professors." According to Froebel, the child was not born to think but to do and be active, and in that we have the opportunity to observe and to learn. Froebel learned about education by watching children learn.  Children are equipped by nature for that task. Since children have not changed, we might follow the same course of education ourselves, learning both from children and from those who have made a life's work of watching children learn.

Educational policy makers devised a two track model in which one track was to keep its hands clean, and engage in purity of thought leading to college while the rest did the dirty manual work of keeping society strong and moving in the right direction. This was described by Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, as follows:
"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
Would we not be better served by a model in which all were called in schools to make objects of useful beauty, building not only things, but in building those things the character and intelligence of our communities and our nation?

Make, fix and create...


Saturday, March 09, 2019

my usual

What you see in the photo are sixty four lids for boxes that I inlaid yesterday morning. About 25 larger lids are in the works for tomorrow. This is that time that comes each year when a few box orders arrive and merchants restock. I make boxes.

Boxes have always provided something for me to do between furniture commissions, so I am grateful to be able to stay productive, even when the larger projects don't show up for awhile.

The lids will be cut to length and sanded on the insides before the boxes are assembled. If all goes well, that will begin to happen next week.

Tonight is the annual Clear Spring Fling to be held Main Stage, 67 North Main in Eureka Springs from 6-9 PM. The event offers great food and plenty of fine art for sale including the box guitar that I made for an article in Woodcraft Magazine. Join us.

Make, fix and create. Discover ways in which you can help others learn likewise.

Friday, March 08, 2019

the wall between

Parents have been sold a bill of goods by the insistence by educational policy makers (and society at large) that college is the only pathway to success. Parents drum into their kids, "You are going to college, you are going to college," and it may not be what every student needs. In some cases they are engineered into situations in which massive debt is accrued for degrees they do not receive and do not use.

For example, I have a college degree in political science, but it was pottery class that offered the greater impact in my life.

This article suggests that parents should overcome their resistance and understand that a son or daughter choosing trade school over college would not be such a bad thing. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/choosing-trade-school-over-college/584275/

I go a step farther forward. The artificial wall constructed between academic pursuits and hand skills at all levels of education should be torn down. The Froebel play ground  I've made at the Clear Spring School can serve as an example. It is constantly being rearranged to serve student desires.

The rearrangements seem limitless, even with only 8 large blocks and three plastic barrels. On Wednesday I watched students lifting and rearranging blocks. The blocks are large enough to require two or three children to lift and move, so each arrangement is a creative collaboration. I made the point of adding only a few components at a time to give them time to exhaust possibilities before growing on, and have watched as the students have taught each other.

"Help me do this," asked of one student by another is an invitation to consciousness. With that question, one admits humility: that he or she is not strong enough to act alone, but is also put in a position in which he or she can share observations and intent. The request, "help me do this," can also be from an adult to a child, and is thereby an invitation into adult responsibility. It is quietly instructional, for real purpose. All education, in an active school is like that. The learning comes as much from the doing as from instruction.

Imagine if all schools were like that. All academic work would be done at deeper levels and  learning would be retained to greater lasting effect.

Yesterday, being off from school for conferences and not being needed, and the weather being just right, I went to House Handle Factory in Cassville, Missouri to get scraps for using in woodturning and making wheels. I hit the jackpot, loaded my truck with a two year supply and left plenty for others to enjoy.

Make, fix and create...


Thursday, March 07, 2019

The limitations of conventional language based learning


This is a repeat post from August 31, 2016

We all know that craftsmanship is an expression of values. A man or woman does beautiful and useful work because he or she cares enough for self and others to make it so. 

The inclination to create beautiful and useful things is a human universal. It can be found in every culture. It is rooted in relationship. We do good work because we are trained to expect it of ourselves, that we may be seen by others as caring. On the other hand, you can tell folks a thing or two, and lay verbal claim to your moral superiority, with it being revealed at some point as total bull. (we appear to be at that point in the Trump Presidency)

From Charles H. Hamm, Mind and Hand, 1886:
It is the most astounding fact of history that education has been confined to abstractions. The schools have taught history, mathematics, language and literature and the sciences to the utter exclusion of the arts, not withstanding the obvious fact that it is through the arts alone that other branches of learning touch human life... In a word, public education stops at the exact point where it should begin to apply the theories it has imparted... At this point the school of mental and manual training combined--the Ideal School--begins; not only books but tools are put in to the hands of the pupil, with this injunction of Comenius; "Let those things that have to be done be learned by doing them."
Also, from Charles H. Hamm:
When it shall have been demonstrated that the highest degree of education results from combining manual with intellectual training, the laborer will feel the pride of a genuine triumph; for the consciousness that every thought-impelled blow educates him, and so raises him in the scale of manhood, will nerve his arm, and fire his brain with hope and courage.
Hamm's theory is the antithesis of Plato, as described in his  Divine Dialogs:
"...the simplest and purest way of examining things, is to pursue every particular by thought alone, without offering to support our meditation by seeing or backing our reasonings by any other corporal sense."
To Plato, I offer James' rejoinder: "Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation. There is in the living act of perception always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late." – William JamesThe following is also from Charles Hamm.
It is easy to juggle with words, to argue in a circle, to make the worse appear the better reason, and to reach false conclusions which wear a plausible aspect. But it is not so with things. If the cylinder is not tight, the steam engine is a lifeless mass of iron of no value whatever. A flaw in the wheel of the locomotive wrecks the train. Through a defective flue in the chimney the house is set on fire. A lie in the concrete is always hideous; like murder, it will out. Hence it is that the mind is liable to fall into grave errors until it is fortified by the wise counsel of the practical hand.
The human hand is constantly seeking the truth and finding it. By leaving laboratory science and wood shop and the arts outside of education, we have diminished our children in both character and intellect, and sacrificed our human culture on the altar of stupidity.

Make, fix, create and offer to others inspiration for learning likewise...

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

values

Mattie Bergström warned that those who's hands are left untrained will be left "values damaged," and what he meant by that is that they will be left without the full and normal range of human values, and incapable of perceiving the deeper meaning of things. Values like care for the natural environment, historic preservation, art, craftsmanship and real love for each other will ring hollow for those who've been sequestered from engagement in life though the development of skills hands-on.

I am reminded of the Bonwit-Teller Building in New York, that was torn down to build the Trump Tower.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4XWoirFToYn

John Barron (really Donald Trump with his voice disguised) claimed that the Art Deco sculptures Donald Trump had previously vowed to preserve, were "without artistic merit." The saving of the sculptures, previously promised to the Metropolitan Museum (where they were thought to have profound artistic merit) was delaying construction, so Trump had them destroyed. Those sculptures were conceived by artists and carved by craftsmen,  and were to be welcomed and preserved by the Met, but did that matter? It would have to a man cognizant of the full range of human values.

Those Bergström described as "values damaged" are lacking the full depth and diverse range of human values. They, knowing little else and having no solid core of humanity adopt money and power as their only driving principles. They become reckless and careless for all else.

We are left in a sad and sorry state when our leaders are drawn from among those Bergström  called "finger blind." And so, developing integrated skills and intellect of hands and mind is essential to the preservation of the quality of human life. Let's make certain that all kids develop integrated skills of hand and mind to prevent them from becoming destructive egomaniacs and putting human culture at risk.

Editing my woodworking with kids book begins in earnest this week with a proposed publication date in July, 2019.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

curved planes

Yesterday was a snow day in Eureka Springs with school cancelled due to icy road conditions.

I was able to give some time to table design as it was also too cold to be in the shop where I need to be making boxes. In a few back and forth emails with my customers and some time on sketchup, we came up with this drawing to illustrate the concept.

The rectangles on top are to illustrate approximate seating positions. The table top is natural edged, so will be far more dramatic in real life than the chunk of wood shown in the drawing.

The base will be made of staves, coopered to shape in a manner similar to making a barrel. Making it will offer some technical challenges in the crafting and assembly. After assembly, the sections will be textured and ebonized, creating a strong contrast between the walnut floor in the dining room and the silver maple top. The sections of the base are placed so as to not interfere with the placement of feet as friends gather around what will be a lovely table.

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

Monday, March 04, 2019

a table to inspire a table...

Customers and I have moved toward a table base design by running through many of my old projects to arrive at something we all like. The table shown in the photo is one that I did almost 10 years ago during the economic collapse at the end of the Bush presidency in which many of us wondered whether we would be launched into another great depression.

I took the time of no work in sight to turn to my storage barn and make tables out of whatever I could find. With all my time being "spare time" I made 10 or 11 tables and sold almost all as the economy began to pick up.

Some may remember losing homes, or loss of value in homes and the serious unemployment that resulted from the near collapse of the banking industry. It took longer than the first term of the Obama administration to get the economy back on track, while the Republicans resisted spending on infrastructure that was intended to put folks back to work and get things fixed at a bargain rate. The Republican deficit hawks were against deficits and raved about the ballooning national debt. Now with huge deficits resulting from the Trump tax cuts, none worry about a balanced budget. Hypocrisy works well in politics, but not so well in craftsmanship.

During the great depression in the 1930's, furniture manufacturers turned to scrap wood to continue work.  I followed their model by carefully using what I had at hand, so it is useful to have at least some knowledge of history.

I began this table during a workshop hosted by the Little Rock Woodworking Guild and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and then finished it in my own shop. The top is walnut consisting of two consecutively sawn boards. The two part base is made of oak that has been ebonized to achieve its black color. The stones are inlaid to accentuate and cover minor imperfections in the wood. The design of the base is utterly simple and will serve well when used with a natural edged top.

Make, fix and create...


Sunday, March 03, 2019

2nd life wood

Yesterday I met customers at a lumber supplier in Fayetteville, Arkansas that specializes in large full width natural edged lumber. We selected a piece of silver maple, 39 in. wide, 3 in. thick and 9 ft. long that will become a single piece dining table top for my customers' home in Little Rock. The weight of the table top will be a particular challenge in my shop as I plane and sand it to serve. I'll call on friends to help.

My teaching schedule limits my involvement in  furniture commissions, but this will be a project too lovely and meaningful to pass up. The customers already have a collection of my work.

This table offers design and technical challenges for me and I'm always amazed that there are folks who think enough of me and my work to present the challenge of making something I've never made before. How many people function with that level of trust? They could go to a store and buy something already made with so little risk and yet prefer to give a craftsman the opportunity for further growth. Perhaps this tells us something about the society we live in and charts the course forward in the event that we would like the world to become a better place. If we were to invest in each other rather than just buying stuff, we would  all live in a happier place.

When we set our neighbors to work crafting objects of useful beauty, more than objects are made. Lives are. Character and intelligence become fabricated within us and in our communities.

In designing a new piece of furniture, I begin with a brainstorm in the night, thinking through all possible options. One I'm thinking of now is a twin cylinder pedestal base as I did in a dining table many years ago and as is shown in the photo. What follows is the philosophy of my commissioned work:
"As furniture maker my preference is to work with native American hardwoods. With some extended care these hardwoods will be here for future generations. Beyond that, I adhere to some basic design principles:

·      The work must be useful - for to be useful is one of the highest of human objectives.
·      The work must show respect for the wood, for the tree, and for the forest.
·      The work must fit the needs, character and temperament of the client.
·      The work must fit my own desire to learn and to grow.

"My customers come to me, asking that I make what they’ve not yet seen, that I’ve never yet made, with faith and confidence that I’ll be able to deliver something truly unique,  useful, and beautiful that will last a lifetime. It is an honor and a gift to serve those with such vision and I owe a great deal to these individuals who have invested in the development of my skill and creativity."

"Every piece of furniture I’ve made began with a brief discussion of client needs and maker philosophy. It can be by email or over dinner. Some fine works have started as napkin sketches. All at some point involve drawings, estimates and an exchange of funds."
In case you are interested, the lumber supplier is 2ndlifewood.com.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

paper baskets in wood shop

Today my Kindergarten students made paper baskets in wood shop. They raided the scrap bin to get extra wooden parts that they wanted to add for decoration. They have no shortage of creativity. The basket is one from the book, Paper Sloyd, which serves as a preparatory text for wood working.

In the Froebel playground at Clear Spring School, the students demonstrated how plastic barrels might be added to their construction. You can see a video on instagram here:  https://www.instagram.com/douglasstowe/  The students are using their recess time to exercise their bodies and their minds. They are collectively creative. They collaborate and problem solve. They take turns, and watch over each other's safety. The applaud each other's successes. Did you know that recess is one of those ways in which students develop character? Human culture is refreshed in each new generation.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, March 01, 2019

a favorite thing.

On Wednesday I introduced more recycled plastic barrels as building components in our Froebel playground. In the afternoon, my students grades 1-4 were allowed another free day following a lesson in measuring and understanding the inch and fractions thereof. Thursday I worked in my own shop for a bit. I have a backlog of boxes that must be made.

On another subject, I received permission from Taunton Press to put my Basic Box Making DVD on youtube. I have uploaded it and you can find it in 17 parts here:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCe5BXfmi4bMW5oIg_iF9kMjZO2iPL3tZ

Just as my students' favorite thing in school is wood shop. Time in my own shop on a cold and drizzling day in the Ozarks, is a favorite thing.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Building a Legacy in the Arts.

In 1994, we held a meeting of the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople to gather some of the founding members of the arts community for a conversation about the arts and their relationship to our community.  As president of the guild, I was the moderator and made the introductory remarks. The purpose of the conversation was to help those new to the community better know those who came before and to set a trajectory for future growth. I've published that video, produced by guild member Betty Maffei and her husband Tony to youtube here: https://youtu.be/oOnmWiLs5YA

The video is slow moving and long, but sincere. All of those featured as presenters are gone, as are Tony and Betty Maffei. Please be patient and forgiving as I make my opening remarks. My hope is that this video will serve as it was intended to serve, a time capsule awakening us to a new future for the arts. At the time, we were making the decision to close the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople so that we could shift attention to founding the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, now in its 21st. year.

When the students at the Clear Spring School finish lunch, many of them go into the woods to build forts. The photo shows one. There is a rule. If someone wants to join your group, he or she must be welcomed in. Human culture must arise new within each generation.

Make, fix and create. Have faith in the assumption that others will also learn best likewise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

in wood shop yesterday...

My first through 4th grade students made objects of their own design. I told them it was "free day", their favorite thing, but with this caveat. I required that they use rulers and squares to make straight cuts, and found objects to make circles. I want their lines to be deliberate, and less random than has been the case.

My fifth and sixth grade students worked on the bridge connecting the play field with the new hands-on learning center that will come into use during the next school year. My wood shop will be moved to the new location, and the bridge should have hand rails and be ready for use next week.

My 7th through 8th grade students spent their hour in wood shop turning on the lathe, but also attempting to video the process. There are a few good things that happen when we attempt to explain and share what we do with others. We address what we are doing with greater care. We think about things from different angles. We engage the editorial functions of mind. The student's job must be to do, but not mindlessly as is sometimes the case. The teacher's job is to require the student to reflect.

If you want to get good at something, do a lot of it and then teach what you've learned to someone else.

On another front, I've arranged for a video to readied for sharing on youtube that's about the early days of the arts in Eureka. I regard history as being important, and that to understand why we are all here, and where we are going next demands that we know more about the starting point and the folks involved. The video, titled "Legacy in the Arts" features Louis and Elsie Freund and other leaders from the early arts community of Eureka Springs. I'll also plan a public showing in collaboration with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create. Sustain an environment in which others may learn lifewise.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

as easy as one, two, three?

Since 2001 I've been in pursuit of a publisher for a book, "The Wisdom of the Hands, a craftsman's guide to educational renewal" I have had endless talks with agents and publishers. Let me correct that. The talks had always been ended one after another by rejection. And yet, the hands carry on as the primary source of human wisdom and intelligence. Anaxagoras had said, that "man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands." So there's actually nothing actually new here, but because education has become so estranged, we need a clarion call. And that's what I've had in mind.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with a friend who has just finished a novel, based on his experience as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Now that the book is done, my friend was curious about the publication process. The choice is this: Write a book that fits a prescribed model, find an agent who takes 20% with a publisher who takes 80% and the author gets what's left. The alternative is to self-publish and get 80%. The problem with the self-publishing model is that without an agent and major publisher, the book may never gain a large following.

And yet, in the midst of all this, one of the best selling books of all time was first released as a serial in the tabloid press, given to its first readers virtually free. Uncle Tom's Cabin was written by a cousin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The following her book gained one chapter at a time in the tabloid press was sufficient to gain a following that led to book sales of over three hundred thousand copies in its first three months.

So what I propose is a partnership. Over the next 365 days, I'll publish the proposed book in this blog, chapter by chapter, for free. You'll know when a new chapter is released. It will be given a number, 1, 2, 3 and beyond. Your job in the partnership will be to read, offer feedback, encouragement and promotion. Feedback and encouragement can be offered through the comments section below each blog post. Promotion will require your sharing what you read here with others.

The photo shows collaborative engineering using Froebel playground blocks at the Clear Spring School. The students worked together (without adult intervention) to build a slide. You can see that each child was engaged physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Make, fix and create...


Saturday, February 23, 2019

the child data industry...

Yesterday in our staff meeting at the Clear Spring School, we read an article from Mother Jones about  the effectiveness of pre-school.  https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/01/alabama-serious-investment-pre-k-education-paying-off/

The educational policy makers argue back and forth on both sides of the issue, and in the meantime, the assessment of growth in children has been removed from teachers and parents and put into the hands of a child data industry that relies on periodically administered standardized tests, and costs an amazing amount of money. The worse part, however, is that parents and teachers are no longer trusted parts of the assessment process. And children are treated as data and not as human beings.

We took our golden doodle Rosie to Camp Bow Wow, a doggie day care. Rosie loved it. She ran around and around with other dogs. Through an app we were able to watch her activities on our iPhones. There were no planned learning exercises. The staff observed and removed dogs that got grumpy, and they, using pooper scoopers, cleaned up the mess left by about twenty dogs having great fun.

Some pre-schools for kids are like that. The staff in doggy day care were high school and college students given just a bit of training. And then there are pre-schools in which well-trained teachers plan lessons, and provide opportunities carefully timed for the children's growth. And so not all pre-schools are the same.

At one time, trained teachers were also trained in the cues of child development. These days, we seem to prefer that growth be measured at a distance, by the testing industry. How very stupid we've become. Learning is one of the basic functions of a human being. This applies to children just as surely as it does to someone now reading this blog.

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School, my upper elementary school students worked on the bridge joining the athletic field to the new hands-on learning center. My Kindergarten students made pinwheels. As is always the case, they chose to color them with markers and add additional pieces of wood to create a custom effect.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

measuring, marking and drawing straight lines.

I've been having my first through 4th grade students working on projects from "Paper Sloyd" as a way of getting them to understand measuring, marking, and drawing straight lines.

Paper Sloyd was introduced as a precursor to school woodworking, and was used in the primary grades. The materials are cheap. The objects are interesting. And the projects are laid out to build from the simple to the complex, and from the easy to the more difficult.

Folding card stock is easiest if you take a sharp point and drag it along the folding line, not to tear the paper but to make an impression to crisp the folding point. This can be done with the back edge of scissors or with a nail, an awl or a small screw driver. Without first marking the fold in this manner, getting heavier paper like card stock to make crisp folds along marked lines is almost impossible.

The kids are of course interested in decorating their work, and proudly carry home evidence of  their learning.

Make, fix and create. Encourage others to learn likewise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

service in the real world is essential to learning

David Gribble, a UK educator, once observed that "the kind of education that honors kids’ interests & helps them to think deeply about questions that matter is of course appropriate for affluent children. For disadvantaged children, on the other hand, it is. . . essential."

ALL children, in order to mature as thoughtful adults, must have opportunities to be of real service to family and community. This applies as much to the affluent (who often escape such opportunities and responsibilities) as to those children we categorize as disadvantaged. "Disadvantaged" children often take on responsibilities while the "advantaged" child may be sequestered and indulged.

"To think deeply" as suggested by Gribble requires that the things kids think about actually matter... that they are real, and drawn from engagement in real life. So the simple way to get kids to think deeply is to offer them the opportunity to do real things.

Over the weekend local members of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists began installing birdhouses our students made at the Lake Leatherwood City Park. We can hope for more bluebirds to be nesting successfully in the area.

Make, fix and create...


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

the generosity of wood workers

Today I went to Wayne Capp's sawmill to pick up some white oak boards they had milled for me at my request. In addition to lovely wood (which I paid pittance for) Wayne gave me old steel band saw blades to use in making Damascus steel in the metals shop at ESSA, and a piece of curly figured cedar that he thought was pretty and that I might use for a box. 

While I was in St. Louis with their woodworking guild, I learned about their toy making program in which they have made and distributed over 62,000 toys to kids, thus far.

Then also while I was in St. Louis, the chairman of our annual auction committee sent me the photo of the segmented turned bowl, that came unsolicited from Tom Casey in Massachusetts. He had learned of our auction to support the school through facebook.

I attempt to describe how woodworking affects both intelligence and character. It makes us wiser than merely smart. It connects us in loving ways with each other and with the natural environment. If you don't know this already, get to know a woodworker in your community. He or she just might guide you toward a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

Home again.

I had a great time in St. Louis with the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild. The weather seems to be a thing they've gotten used to as snow on the streets did nothing to deter attendance for the class. Unfortunately, I was too busy to take any photos. We had a nice discussion of design. I made sleds and two kinds of box. With around thirty in the class, it was difficult for folks to to get a close-up view. We really do learn best when the work is in our own hands. Fortunately, most of those attending had prior experience in woodworking to serve as scaffolding for an understanding of my techniques.

I admit to getting carried away with telling about Educational Sloyd and Kindergarten. But woodworkers are hands-on learners, and we must unite against the stupidity of those who think that academic style learning is something more than cheap. Yes, you can crowd tons of folks in a college lecture hall, while you pay a professor to stand up front delivering dry stuff while the students not-so-surreptiously check their facebook accounts to see who likes what. Colleges and universities can make big money thus.

Hands-on learning, on the other hand, offers more valuable and more cost-effective, world-changing results.

This weekend members of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists began installing the bluebird houses my students made at our Lake Leatherwood City Park.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

kids' playground

A blog reader from Mälmo, Sweden sent this photo of kids using and making their own adventure playgrounds.

Kids have a natural inclination to build their own character and intelligence through constructive arts. This applies as much to the future tradesman as to the future doctor, lawyer or mother. Give kids materials and tools, observe to assure their safety and get out of the way of their growth.

Today I conclude a two day demonstration class with the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, February 16, 2019

fit for man nor beast...

I made a presentation last night to a few members of the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild. A brave group, having weathered a snow storm that arrived in the early afternoon. The weather, was fit for neither man nor beast, but they showed up anyway, as did I.

They were appreciative of my three points. The diverse woods that come from our forests are a precious resource and we have a responsibility to share an understanding of their beauty and value. The hands are the most important allies of the brain in the development of character and intelligence. And that we share a responsibility to promote hands on learning as the basic building block for the future success of humanity.

Today I meet with a group of 25 woodworkers to demonstrate the making of boxes.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

weekend woodwokring

Today I'm headed for St. Louis, Missouri for a weekend woodworking class with the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild. http://www.slwg.org/calendar.aspx

The guild offers a free evening presentation at Moolah Shrine, 12545 Fee Fee Road, St. Louis, MO 63146 beginning at 7 PM. I'll be showing slides of my work.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Little Free Library

We mounted the Clear Spring School's Little Free Library on a post yesterday adjacent the school's parking lot. With the addition of knobs and a latch, it will be ready for books very soon. The focus will be on children's books, and we left the lower shelf large enough to handle large picture books for beginning readers. It will be a way through which we can share our love of reading with children from the larger community of Eureka Springs.

Today I'm gathering supplies and packing for my trip to St. Louis where I'll teach a two day demonstration class in box making.

Make, fix and create... Plan for others to learn lifewise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Yesterday in wood shop...

Yesterday in wood shop my first through 4th grade students made pinwheels, an exercise from the old book "Paper Sloyd". My point in having them make pinwheels was to get them more accustomed to using rulers to mark straight lines. Without straight lines, woodworking with hand tools is far less successful.

In my middle school class, we installed the post on which to mount the Little Free Library, finished painting the sign for it, and delivered 22 birdhouses to the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists.

My upper elementary school students began building a foot bridge.

Today in my own shop, I begin preparing for a weekend class in St. Louis.

Here in Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation set up a 10 million dollar program at the University of Arkansas.  https://news.uark.edu/articles/42401/new-u-of-a-program-focusing-on-educational-equity-completes-first-teacher-training The administrator was paid $200,000 his first year. The idea of the program was, like the New York Teaching Fellows, to bring new recruits into the teaching profession, and train them on the job while they earn their master's degrees. The program managed a first year recruitment of twelve students, three of whom dropped out. In other words, the director was paid $22,222.22 for each new recruit. The director's salary was only a fraction of the expense.  Go figure. They hope to do better in the coming years.

Make, fix and create... Insist that others have a  chance to learn likewise. Please honor and respect the teaching profession.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

puppies (and kids) must play

Puppies and kids must play. An Arkansas Republican legislator has proposed new legislation that would require every elementary school student in the state to be allowed 40 minutes of recess each day, including out of doors unstructured play when the weather is OK. It is odd to me that legislation would be required for this, as teachers and administrators if they had been trained in child development would have already put such policies in place and would have rebelled against state standards, policies and practices that prescribed otherwise.

In any case, the research tells us that the legislator is right. I applaud his efforts and have my fingers crossed. In Finland, they have more recess time and out of doors recreation time than any other country in the European union and it works for them. When I visited a school in Helsinki, the kids (and teachers) all had their slippers on for indoor school, while those out of doors were wearing shoes. What a very fine thing. Lovely in fact.

Children having adequate opportunity to play offers important benefits to the school environment. Students come in from rigorous play prepared for more rigorous academic engagement. Teachers, too, need the emotional and mental release that happens when kids are successfully engaged in out of doors play.

The photo, once again shows large Froebel blocks used in out of doors play.  In this case, the blocks have been arranged by the kids to serve as an obstacle course with students jumping or climbing, one to another. Perhaps these should also be used in other schools.

Yesterday I had a design class in collaboration with the Eureka Springs Community Center and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Next weekend I'll be in St. Louis for a class with the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild.

Make, fix and create. Make space for kids to engage in the real world to enhance their academic learning.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

A trail of blocks

The students at Clear Spring School have found a new use for the large outdoor Froebel blocks. They've set up an obstacle course to climb from one to another. Some are set up at precarious angles to involve climbing. The students adjust the blocks so they can jump or climb from one to another, and pack sand under the corners as needed to make them stable.

Today I have a class on 3-D design at the Eureka Springs Community Center in cooperation with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The hours are 1-4 PM. There is room inn the class for late registrants. Show up and we will accommodate. 3-D design will be useful whatever you want to make.

Yesterday a friend passed along an old classic Delta bandsaw to the Clear Spring School for restoration and use in our wood shop. It had belonged to his dad.

Make, fix, create, and plan for others to learn lifewise.

Friday, February 08, 2019

"Do you have a screw gun?"

My student decided to build a boat. He used hot melt glue to affix the sides, but then for the ends, asked if I had screws and a screw gun. He thought they were called for as the awkward angle of the sides would make nailing difficult.

It is wonderful to observe first and second grade boys with such a grasp of the technicalities involved in making things from wood.

I helped him with the first screw or two, showing how drilling a pilot hole first would help to get the screws started. From then on the work was his own. That he asked for screws and a screw gun suggest that he comes from a home in which his parents are involved in doing real things and letting him take part.

The lightweight cordless drill made by Tacklife is an excellent tool for kids in similar circumstances, as it is considerably smaller than most cordless drills.

Today my 5th and 6th grade students will build a model bridge in preparation for building a real foot bridge at school, crossing a creek. It is too cold out for them to begin work on the real thing. Tomorrow February 9, 2019, I have a 3-D  design class with ESSA. The lessons apply beyond box making and there are still openings in the class. Call 479-253-5384 to enroll.

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

Thursday, February 07, 2019

building blocks

The large Froebel blocks we've made at Clear Spring School are hollow and made from 1/2 in. treated plywood with an interior frame of 1 in. square strips cut from 5/4 treated deck boards. We use Titebond 3 water-proof glue and 1 1/4 in. narrow crown staples to hold the corners together.

The secret to building them is to build a frame around the perimeter of certain parts, that then allow for other parts to be added. So along each inside edge is a 1 in. square block. The 1 in. square dimension for interior blocking was selected to keep weight and material expense low, using commonly available material, while offering sufficient gluing and stapling surface area to form strong joints. The students have told me that they need more 4' x 2' x 1' blocks to be able to build what they "have in mind." Perhaps we will add to the collection over time.

A reader sent these links to "apple boxes" that are commonly used in movie making and theater to have the same kind of fun our kids have on the Clear Spring School playground,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_box and  http://exgfilms.com/legacy/home-made-apple-boxes/

Unlike apple boxes, ours are made to Frobel's proportions, and of weather proof materials for out of doors use.

The interesting object shown in the photo is made using a flip car body as the base for construction with small band sawn dogs added. I cannot explain what it all means, or why certain parts were added, but each addition was carefully conceived. The student was very proud of his work. I helped by using the band saw to cut shapes the student had drawn and by close examination you can see the pencil drawings on each part.

Make, fix and create. Adjust schooling so that others learn likewise.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

dissemble and assemble

I had arranged the Froebel blocks into a cube and then watched as the kids, within minutes, took my assembly apart and began the process of arranging the blocks according to their own inclinations. The blocks are serving in just the way I had planned.... an impromptu playground that is in constant flux.

If you've watched children play with blocks, this is the same process but on a larger scale and involving the whole body and sharing the process with friends.

Some simple rules have been established, and the teachers are watching.
  1. Blocks stay within the volleyball court.
  2. No ankle grabbing.
  3. Stack blocks only 2 high.
  4. Don't move blocks if someone is on them.
  5. Stack and move carefully and mindful of others fingers and toes.
It would be interesting to have a series of photos taken during a school day to watch transformation. What does this have to do with learning? Everything. It's play.

Today in the wood shop, we will begin work on the installation of the school's Little Free Library. That means digging.
Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Labrador retriever

Yesterday my 1st through 4th grade students made small pivot lid boxes. Some left them plain. Some decorated them with markers and others turned them into creatures of various kinds. The one shown in the photo is a Labrador retriever, complete with large floppy ears, tail and feet. It will likely become a part of a family collection and be cherished for years. At least, it deserves that.

Yesterday I also arranged our set of large Froebel blocks into a cube. The kids asked what I was doing. "Playing," I said. Within minutes, their own play had rearranged the blocks into new configurations.

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

Saturday, February 02, 2019

big blocks

The addition of 4 more supersized Froebel blocks to the CSS playground has been a hit with the kids and teachers alike. As with the simple cubes, the flat tiles are continuously re-arranged into new configurations.  Now having twice as many blocks, they have become a gathering spot for performance art. The students have become watchful for fingers and toes as the blocks are moved from one place to another.

Yesterday I met by phone with members of the Arkansas Arts Council and a small panel of artists to select the Arkansas Living Treasure for 2019. That craft artist will be announced later in the year. In the CSS wood shop my kindergarten students made toy cars that they then turned into airplanes and wheeled sculptural objects. I'll post photos on my instagram account.

Make, fix and create... Enable others to learn likewise.


Friday, February 01, 2019

using the engineering mind

The photo shows a student's cat house he designed in wood shop. It took some figuring out. First he learned that it is very difficult to direct nails into the edge of very thin wood. So thicker wood was needed for the sides. Then various modifications were necessary thus requiring an examination of the uses of various saws.

This was but one of several different projects happening all at the same time in wood shop on Wednesday. The kids like it very best when they are allowed to experiment and come up with projects of their own design.

I had been challenged on twitter by someone who had misunderstood my point in response to a post from another party, concerning school emphasis on children being "ready to learn."
"All children are 'ready to learn.' The question is 'ready to learn what?' They are always ready to learn things that interest them. Too many schools have lost the ambition to interest kids."
I was asked on twitter, "Why limit kids to what interests them? Seems like a low bar." Days later I found the time to respond.
I did not suggest that we limit kids to what interests them. Diesterweg came up with the following that then became Salomon's theory of Educational Sloyd. 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. Jerome Bruner called this "scaffolding." But it all starts with the interests of the child.
The reason my students love days in which they are allowed to experiment and come up with projects on their own is that their individual interests are met, and their own intrinsic motivations. Isn't that when we learn best? Adults and students alike?

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


Thursday, January 31, 2019

adding to...

We've been adding to our collection of supersized Froebel blocks, these being from gift number 4.  I set out the first of the number 4 blocks this morning so they could be discovered at recess.

Of course the kids know immediately how to play with blocks. These are heavy so the kids have been warned about dropping them on toes, and have been warned that fingers can be pinched. If the kids use them safely, they will remain.

These blocks are inspired by Froebel's gifts and our use of them in the classroom. They are also influenced by Jean Lee Hunt's 1918 book, "A Catalog of Play Equipment," about play equipment that the kids can build for themselves. The pieces from the "catalog" would never pass OSHA standards. But they give the kids a sense of creative agency.

What I observed about our gift number 3 blocks had been that every time I'd arrive on campus, the blocks had been moved into new arrangements and new positions. And so the blocks create a fluid and responsive play set. Adding the number 4 blocks will offer new possibilities, including stacking them all into a 4 ft. x 4 ft. x 4 ft. cube.

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

effort driven rewards

The things we work for are often of greater value to us than those things that arrive with ease. The things we make may of greater value to us than the things we buy. The effort we invest in doing real things offers feelings of well-being, agency, and accomplishment.

Even dog chow is more appealing when it requires some effort to attain. For example, the simple dog toy shown allows our goldendoodle Rosie to work for her chow. Kibble hidden inside offers greater reward than the bowl of the same kibble readily at hand. And Rosie proves it by playing the game for food while her bowl is full and standing by.

We make a mess of things when we fail to understand nature. Shall I say human nature? Even animals share the same traits.

The concept "Effort Driven Rewards" comes from Kelly Lambert's study of rats.

Those who are raised without the opportunity to engage the world, hands-on are left out of touch.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

beads of courage

Today the Stateline Woodturners will gather at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (ESSA) to assemble and turn wooden boxes for "Beads of Courage." The boxes will be distributed through the Northwest Arkansas Children's Hospital to children being treated for life threatening diseases. The activities will begin about 8 AM. You are welcome to come by and observe.

A reader had asked how the center finding gauge works. This one that I made of clear plexiglas may be more obvious. For a round, square or octagonal object, slide it into the "V" and mark with a pencil. Where two  or more lines intersect will be the center of the object.

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