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.

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. 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, and

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.