Thursday, December 05, 2019

canes and ornaments

Yesterday my students worked on canes and ornaments. The canes are made for the elderly and infirm at our local medical clinic, and the ornaments are being made for a Christmas Tree at the Crescent Hotel. Beginning on December 7, you can vote on your favorite tree by giving a dollar or more.

Those trees that get the most votes receive additional money from the hotel. On or after December 7, take money, go to the hotel and vote big. We hope the hands and toys will capture the hearts of those visiting the forest of trees representing charitable organizations in our community.

My students will be finishing more ornaments in the wood shop today.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


My students and I have now made about 30 toys to use as ornaments on a Clear Spring School Christmas tree for the Crescent Hotel to be displayed starting Dec. 7. Most of them have now been painted. I'll take a photo of some of the finished cars today.

Today my Kindergarten students will begin making toy trains, and I have a new way to hold the train cars connected in a string. By cutting a groove in the underside of each one, a simple string can be hot melt glued in place connecting them. It does not offer the option of coupling and uncoupling cars, but is a simple way to make a train to capture the love of  the youngest kids.

Part of the fun of woodworking with kids is that the teacher gets to be creative and learn new things.

Last night I packaged 20 boxes to ship to a customer in Little Rock.

I had correspondence with a publisher who told me that they were going to place greater emphasis on publishing scholarly works, making it less likely that they would publish my book Wisdom of the Hands: Crafting Self, Community and Human Culture. The perception that "scholarly" precludes personal experience in reshaping and restoring the role of the hands in learning and in life, is a dangerous thing. In the German language they recognize two kinds of knowledge, Wissennshaft that comes second hand from reading about stuff, and Kentniss that comes from doing real things. The perception that "scholarly" is about one and not the other is a sad notion in academia. The wisdom of the hands is likely a threat to the academic status quo.

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Three recent studies suggests that instead of fidget spinners being useful in helping some students toward classroom learning success, they have the opposite effect. It has been argued that fidget spinners help kids adapt to the stress of the modern classroom, having particular effect on those students suffering from ADHD. Claims for the value of fidget spinners were made by the marketers on pure speculation and without evidence.

On the other hand, fidget spinners may be useful in helping kids to cope with boring lessons... not in helping to manage to learn those lessons but helping them to manage sitting still without disrupting others. So let's be clear. Children don't fit well in classrooms that are one size supposed-to-fit all.

On Thursday I talked with my great nephew Knox about his schooling. As a very bright boy he would find school to be very boring but for being recognized as "gifted" and being assigned a mentor who listens to his interests and helps design lessons specific to what he wants most to learn. But then, this raises the question, are not all children "gifted" and talented in one way or another? Perhaps with individually assigned mentors or smaller class sizes we'd find out.

On the other hand, there are two things standing in the way of greater educational success, each of these well proven by research. Poverty is the greatest obstacle standing in the way of student success, and it should come as no surprise that my great nephew Knox, comes from a family that gives him full support and total love. Gifted kids come from families like his that offer attention and support.

The other obstacle is class size. Teachers with 25 to 30 kids in a class are incapable of knowing their students' interests or exact level of development and thus must force engagement through other means.  They command, "Sit still kids." When sitting still is not what their minds, and bodies need. Don't you remember the figits from when you were a kid?

So these are two things to fix. Poverty and class size. Shouldn't we be talking about these two things? And of course the third point is the hands. Students should be engaged in project based learning through which their hands are engaged in doing real things. The value of doing real things is far greater than cramming useless information into the brain that will be quickly forgotten

Today my elementary students will be making toy cars and trucks. My middle school students will be making canes for the elderly. My high school students will be working on their longboards.

The photo is for my friend Bob whose shop I visited last week, and for whom I tried to explain my method for attaching the ESSA compound miter saw to dust collection. A picture is worth far more than a thousand words. It is great fun to visit other woodworker's shops and seeing how they've solved problems common to us all.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 29, 2019

not dead yet.

Not Dead Yet: Reflections on Life, Aging & Death, the new book to which I contributed a chapter is now available on Amazon, as either Kindle edition or print. Not Dead Yet contains the work of 16 participants, edited by my good friend Dan Krotz and published by Cahaba Press.

My students at the Clear Spring School came up with a new use for the Froebel blocks. They set them up as courts for ball play. With a student at each end, they roll the ball back and forth keeping count of the number of times the ball goes from one to the other. It has been a good way for those proficient in counting to share their skill with others less proficient, and the fact that their bodies are involved may strengthen the learning process. That the kids came up with this on their own gives it extra learning value.

Make, fix and create. Adjust schooling so that all children learn lifewise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


I was asked to make ornaments for a school fundraising Christmas tree that will be on display at the Crescent Hotel from Dec. 7 until the first week of January. With the students we're making tiny cars and trucks and wooden hands that can be hung on the tree.

The toy cars and trucks are easy to make and the students can design their own. I have the drill press set up so they can make their own wheels. A loop of yarn passed through a hole in the toy provides a means to hang it from the tree.

The students traced their hands on paper which I then glued on Baltic birch plywood using spray adhesive. I cut out the hands on the band saw and scroll saw. They will paint them after Thanksgiving holiday break.

The wooden hands reflect the Clear Spring School's mission statement:
Together, all at Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a HANDS ON and HEARTS ENGAGED educational environment.
As you may have noticed by observing in your own life, there is a direct relationship between the engagement of the hands and the fulfillment of the heart.

I wish all my readers and friends a very happy Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite American holidays. Good food as we gather in love for one another.

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

beyond McMind

A new book by Ronald Purser, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality explores the shortcomings the mindfulness movement. Another of my blogs  sawzen, in which I've not written since 2015 promotes the idea of sustaining a unified mental state, being both in the world and of it, and noting that we are in this world equipped with bodies (and hands) so that we can be of service to each other.

We are infinitely and intimately connected to each other and to all else while we are confronted at the same time with an unceasing number of real things that require our complete attention. Dual awareness is the practice of attending equally and seamlessly to the full range of self.

In other words, sawzen is not zazen. It's not about withdrawing from the world into a meditative state, but is entering into the world with soul in focus and reality at hand.

Woodworking can be a path toward realization of greater SELF. In my shop I continue sanding boxes, knowing they will leave my hands and find their way into other hands, building connections between us.

There is a whole bunch of hype and egotism built into the practice of "spirituality." Let's avoid that and get to work.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

crystals on a puddle

This morning I found ice crystals forming in a puddle at the end of my road. The loveliness of nature and natural processes can be discovered in unlikely places. The crystals formed as long shafts, criss-crossing each other to form stars.

The temperature last night hovered just below the freezing point, allowing crystals for form in long pathways on the surface of the water.

Last week at the Clear Spring School, the woods above the campus were opened to student play, a thing that happens each year when freezing temperatures put ticks and chiggers into a dormant state. I'm reminded of the importance of kids playing in the woods, but the freezing puddle this morning reminds me of the importance of adults also getting out of doors to observe the wonders of the real world.

I introduced our dog Rosie to the wonders of doggy TV. There are hours and hours of programming available of squirrels and birds and dogs at play,  or on leashes walking with their masters along forest paths. Rosie prefers, however, to sit with me on the front porch chewing a stick. She keeps and eye open to the real woods, where if a real squirrel shows up, she's on the ready for a real run.

Yesterday she climbed the stairs behind the wall to which our television screen is mounted. She wanted (I assume) to see if there were any real squirrels and birds behind the screen. Not finding them there, she asked to go out.

I'll remind you of the necessity of distracting and extracting ourselves from the digital world that keeps us sequestered from real life. The wood shop is a great way to reengage in reality. In my shop, I'm busy sanding 46 small wooden boxes, which I expect to have finished next week.

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