Friday, December 15, 2017

kids and boats...

Wendy, our art teacher at Clear Spring School, introduced a boat project using water colors and torn paper in the lower grades to collaborate with our high school boat building project. Students learned some nautical terminology, and learned a variety of things about art at the same time. The results are delightful and are what you get when a teaching staff has the opportunity for all to work in collaboration with each other. What you see in the photo is first grade art and first rate. No, those are not catamarans, or catboats. They are sailing cats.

All over the US, folks (outside of public education) are discovering the value and necessity of hands-on learning as in the link here:

Yesterday at ESSA I scarf joined the white oak to form the keels of the two Bevins Skiffs. My students finished installing the top rails. Today  I hope we can get the keels and skegs installed. This is my last day of school before the Holiday break.

Yesterday I asked my students to name a few specific things they were learning by building boats. One they mentioned was teamwork. Teamwork is a skill and resource they will use all their lives.

Yesterday we had a plumber here working on our propane line. I noticed that he was wearing a VICA jacket indicating his participation in the Skills USA national competition, so I asked about it. He told me about winning first place in the state competition in plumbing and having gone on to the national competition. He told me too, that without the shop class at Eureka Springs High School he would not have graduated from high school.

He told me that the problem with all his other classes was that they weren't doing anything real, and that when he was doing something real, the rest of it began to make sense. Can we fix things, please? Every student should be afforded the opportunity to learn by doing real things in service to family and community.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

the power of the workbench

I ran across this wonderful article on the power of the workbench:

It is distressing that so many children are being controlled by gaming platforms and iPhones when in the past, kids were left somewhat to their own devices (of hand and mind) to discover their creative capacities.
“Clunk, clunk, zzzz-zzzzz—thunk!”
These are sounds of kids using tools at a woodworking bench. Sounds once familiar and pleasurable to me during my teaching days. I no longer hear those sounds during my visits to schools, nor do I see woodworking benches as part of the classroom environments. When I talk to teachers about the importance and value of woodworking for young children, they are astonished and incredulous that I would even suggest that young children use real tools such as hammers and saws. They often laugh at such an idea and say, “Do you know what little children are like?”

Oh, but I do know what little children are like.— Judith Pack
And all good teachers have known from the earliest days of education. The following is from Comenius:
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them.
Girls, too, need to be engaged in doing real things. Community Playthings is a company in New York that makes wooden furniture, fixtures and teaching supplies for schools and pre-schools. The workbench in the photo is one of their fine products.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

or no seats?

I intended to install the seats of the boats yesterday, but my students got started sanding. They like that part. We did begin installing the rails. The parts that remain are the foredeck, the quarter knees, the keel and skeg. We may leave the seats for last, giving us the opportunity to paint the insides without obstruction.

I will need to scarf join some white oak to form the keels.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Today we may get to the point of adding seats to the Bevins Skiffs being made by students at the Clear Spring School. This time period had originally been on the schedule as a fine arts block, but what is a finer art than building a boat? Boats express the integration of form and function and are to be assessed in both the look and the workings of their parts. The following quote was shared by Tim Holton at
Of all things, living or lifeless, upon this strange earth, there is but one which…I still regard with unmitigated amazement…and never pass without the renewed wonder of childhood,…and that is the bow of a Boat…The nails that fasten together the planks of the boat’s bow are the rivets of the fellowship of the world. Their iron does more than draw lightning out of heaven, it leads love round the earth. — John Ruskin.
John Ruskin was a critic of art and architecture whose writings inspired the golden age of arts, crafts, and craftsmanship. Today, if all goes right, we will install the seats in our Bevins Skiffs. Still to come will be the keels, skegs, foredecks, and quarter knees. I have students on my hands now who can hardly wait for the time when the boats hit water.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 11, 2017

scarf joints...

Yesterday I ripped catalpa wood for the balance of the parts for the Bevins Skiffs. I cut scarf joints on the table saw to extend sections of 8 foot stock to over 12 feet. I used epoxy glue thickened with wood flour to secure the joints. This stock, after being planed and cut to width and length will form the seat risers, and top rails. Today we can begin installing the frame pieces to which the seat risers and rails will be attached. The Incra (brand) miter gauge shown is perhaps the only table saw miter gauge that can be adjusted to such an acute angle (7.5°) to form a scarf joint in this manner.

My objective is to have most of the woodworking completed on both boats before the end of this week when students (and teachers) get out for the holiday break. There may be a few small details that I'll need to attend to when the students are not present. Painting will come later. I will need to turn some of my attention during break to getting the ESSA wood shop ready for classes in the spring.

The simple point is that students need to be engaged in doing real things. There must be real things offered in school for which they find pride in having done and through which skills of mind and hand are attained. Even if we were no longer a manufacturing nation — even if we were overrun with meaningless stuff (as we are) — being a human being requires that we create useful beauty in service to each other. To fail to do so may leave us short-handed, short-sighted, ill-tempered, anxious and depressed.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

making sense

Some days I have to sit back and attempt to make sense of things.
Black Elk described the wholeness to be found in nature as follows:
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children. -- Black Elk
Again, along the same lines, the following is from Dr. Matti Bergström's book, Hjarnans resurser — en bok om ideernas ursprung "The Brain's Resources — a Book about the Origin of Ideas."
...We evolve in order to unite the world we live in into a wholeness. ...This is why the unifying force, the collective principle ... assumes ever greater importance in our lives. It becomes apparent in our thirst for peace, accord, and harmony, goodness, a social and religious paradise, love of our fellow humans and nature and an ensouling of nature. ...Even in our science we wish more and more to be rid of one-sided analysis, divisiveness and disjointed knowledge to create instead a method of research that tends toward synthesis and holism, wholeness and cohesion, where values can coexist without battling each other. — pp. 147-8
It seems the human condition requires great effort to make sense of. While our training and relentless activity is to discern one thing from another, the understanding of wholeness, a thing Froebel called Gliedganzes, requires us to put things together and to find the common thread. An ancient  Chinese text called the Hsin Hsin Ming describes the process and the solution. "The great way," it says is, "is not difficult for those who have no preferences, but make the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart." The solution it proposes is that whenever doubts or dissensions arise they must be met with the firm assertion, "not two," that there are no real boundaries between us.

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

Make, fix, and create. Use the powers of mind that you have been given to transcend the fractures that divide us and that leave us lonely and afraid.

Saturday, December 09, 2017


Yesterday my upper elementary school students turned wood on the lathe, making small candle sticks as Christmas presents. My high school students began work on the insides of the Bevins Skiffs, forming the ribs that support the seat risers and strengthen the sides.

Fitting the ribs was perplexing at first until it dawned on me that all the chines were cut on the top edge at the same angle and were the same thickness of wood. So all we had to do to get them to fit was to make a bandsaw cut into the end of each and then use a sliding t bevel and pencil to mark the angle cut for it to fit the top edge of the chine.  Making the final cut required using a pencil and thin shim to cut the end to angle and length. The students quickly picked up the trick and the process that they believed would take hours was quickly done.

By the end of this process I will have learned a lot. In contemplating a career for myself, I had wanted to do something that provided constant learning. Woodworking can be that.

Over the weekend, I'll prepare more stock by taking pieces of catalpa and scarf joining them into longer strips for the seat risers and top rails.

This evening I will be at Lux Weaving Studio for a sale of my work.

Make, fix, and create...