Saturday, September 30, 2006

Independent schools like Clear Spring serve an important function in today's world of education. With public education under increasing stress from legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act, the implementation of new teaching techniques that offer greater engagement in learning and pave the course for the future of all schools is left in the hands of small independent schools like ours.

Clear Spring School has been called "the miracle in the woods." While independent schools generally exist in large market areas where there is a greater demand for private education and where there are well-to-do parents who can afford to give their children the best, Clear Spring School is in a town of barely over 2,000 with the kind of tourist based economy that is well known for low wages and seasonal employment. Survival might be miracle enough under such circumstances, but Clear Spring has grown and developed world class educational programs while sharing the communty's children with a first rate public school system. It has managed to survive and thrive and offer exemplary programs in a poor market due to the passionate involvement of parents, staff and board who take its mission clearly to heart.

"Together, all at the Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a hands-on and hearts-engaged educational environment."

You may be at some great distance from our school, but there are ways you may join us and help.
Hands-on/Hearts-Engaged at the Clear Spring School

The greatest problems in modern education can be summarized in the 3 D-s… Disengagement, disinterest and disruption. Schools often fail to engage children's innate capacities for learning. In worst cases, students become disruptive of the educational interests and needs of others. At a very early age, children are instructed, "don't touch!" "Keep your hands to yourself!” But the hands and brain comprise an integrated learning/creating system that must be engaged in order to secure the passions and "heart" of our youth. When the passions are engaged and supportive systems (teachers, community resources, technology etc) are in place, students will find no mountain is too high, and no concept too complex to withstand the assault of their sustained interest and attention. There is a rich but near forgotten tradition in America of seeing the integration of head, heart, and hand being essential to the health of the individual and society. The hands-on/hearts-engaged educational strategy at the Clear Spring School is designed to reinforce learning confidence and to enhance a sense of community and social responsibility.

Beginning with pre-primary and extending through high school, Clear Spring School students participate in a multifaceted curriculum that blends reflection and expression, theory and application of ideas derived from direct observation and experimentation, individuality and community responsibility. Instead of re-enforcing the commands “hands-off” and “keep your hands to yourself,” we invite intelligent investigation, cooperative thinking, and creative, useful activity.

Specific programs, depending on grade level, include outdoor education, camping, woodworking, travel school, service learning, mentoring, internships, and interdisciplinary studies.

Outdoor and Environmental Education grades Pre-K though 12
It is essential that our students gain an appreciation for our natural environment, and develop a sense of stewardship and responsibility. Our program of outdoor studies, recycling, camping, and woodworking are all designed to create a greater sense of appreciation and respect for the wonders of our small planet. In addition, all Clear Spring students are actively engaged in recycling and our annual Trash-a-thon Fundraiser.

Camping grades 1 through 6
Our fall and spring camping trips are an adventure in cooperative planning, united effort, group welfare, and outdoor activities. Math, reading, writing, science, cooperative games, outdoor drama local folklore, history, cultural and natural studies are all brought into play.

Woodworking grades 1 through 12
Our nationally recognized woodworking program, the Wisdom of the Hands, is based on an understanding of the importance of the hand/brain learning system that is genetically encoded in each human being. The program is a point of curriculum convergence, where the hands become involved in the studies of math, science, history, design and literature and though which the lessons and experiences from other studies can be directly applied. In addition, as one parent observed, the woodshop is a place the children learn about themselves.

Travel School grades 3 through 12
Through the travel school program, students synthesize learning themes across the curriculum. For example: a week’s journey to the Deep South brings to life through direct experience antebellum architecture, music history, the homes and times of southern writers, US history, economics, as well as native flora, fauna and wildlife. Students complete daily journal assignments, a process which integrates and preserves a record of their observations and experiences. Travel school has been noted to build close, cooperative personal relationships between students, and between students, faculty and volunteer parent chaperones.

Service Learning grades 1 through 12
Service learning takes students into the community to explore real-life community issues and concerns, fostering in the student a sense of greater responsibility and sensitivity. Specific service learning activities include an annual Trash-a-thon (litter pick-up), and recent examples include construction and delivery of walking canes for the elderly, and raising money for hurricane relief. Clear Spring high school students are required to complete 20 hours annually of community service, volunteering with a local organization of their choice. Like internships, service learning encourages students to participate in the life of the local community and lifts the principles of citizenship and civic responsibility off the page and into action.

Student Mentoring grades 7 through 12
Students in the upper grade levels take responsibility as mentors for younger students. These formal and informal interactions are mutually beneficial. Older students learn the value of sharing their time and talents; younger students enjoy the 1:1 attention. We have observed that all students leave these sessions with an air of confidence and satisfaction with themselves.

Learning Through Internships (LTI) grades10 through 12
LTI carries the learning experience beyond the classroom to encompass specialized training and exploratory learning via educational community partnerships, direct on-the-job experiences, group projects, overseen and supervised by daily consultation with school advisors. Students delve into areas of personal interest, explore career possibilities, and establish professional role models. Advisors, students, and internship supervisors develop learning plans to fulfill five areas of requirement: communication, empirical reasoning, personal qualities, quantitative reasoning, and social reasoning.

Integrated Studies all grades
We know that the artificial boundaries constructed between various disciplines create an environment lacking in credibility and creativity. In fact, at the Clear Spring School, we recognize that thinking outside the box involves first and foremost, the ability to interact with information and experience through a multi-disciplinary perspective. We look for every opportunity to explore the boundaries between disciplines for connections that enhance the learning experience.

Block Scheduling
We know that the extremely short time alotted to the exploration of various subjects encourages shallow efforts rather than deep exploration. At the Clear Spring middle school and high school, block scheduling allows greater opportunities for interdisciplinary and multisensory learning experiences and creates greater opportunity for our students to make use of our other hands-on, hearts-engaged program activities.

Most important, the hands-on/hearts-engaged educational strategy is one that has eliminated the 3 D-s from education. Our students and staff at Clear Spring School are 3 E-s...engaged, enthusiastic and eager to learn.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Private and public schools...Their legacy in education...

American President Woodrow Wilson, when president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "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."

While few today would buy into such an elitist view of American society, the core of the system of education that arose from such thinking is with us today.

I remember when my mother, a kindergarten teacher would come home from school, surprised and frustrated by the amount of anger and distrust directed by the parents of the children in her classroom toward school. Young fathers would come into her classroom still carrying the load of anger from their own school experiences, and it was my mother's job to win them over, with assurances that their children would be treated with love and respect.

The history of American education is clouded and confused. One the one hand, you have teachers, administrators and parents who have worked hard to lift the level of education to meet its promise. On the other hand, the underlying purposes of those who created the American system of education in the first place, were sinister in light of the commonly held educational values of today.

So the question becomes, how do we transform American education while utilizing the vast long-term commitment and dedication of American teachers? Ron Hansen a professor of teacher education at the University of Western Ontario in Canada has proposed a "diplomatic revolution" in education. While there are many in our country that believe that a revolution is called for and some see no need for diplomacy, the idea of a "diplomatic revolution" is that there are millions of teachers, administrators and parents working each day to make education better in America. Their expertise and commitment is needed; their continuing dedication is required. But efforts made to shore up a system rotten at its core are not enough. Revolution demands that the core, the vision and purpose of education be examined, and built anew.

In the time of Woodrow Wilson, public and private education were opposed parts of a single vision, one controlling the masses, the other preparing the masters for control. It was a dark partnership. Today, there are other things afoot…potentials for partnerships bringing education of all children into greater light. Tomorrow I want to spend a few minutes telling about Clear Spring School.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Educaton's dirty hidden purpose...We all know that that education has some lofty goals, held in the hearts of many parents and teachers. We think of schools as having the purpose of lifting each child to his or her highest potential and to a life of meaning and fulfillment. But, we also know and seldom acknowledge that schools have other purposes as well, that prevent our loftier goals from having a chance of being fulfilled. If you would like to know a bit about education's dirty hidden purpose, there is a short paper written by John Taylor Gatto that will help you to understand what we are up against. "Against Schools: How public education cripples our kids, and why". I won't ask you to enjoy this paper, but I will ask you to read it. Then let's talk about how to change schools, how to empower our children, and how to become the parents and teachers that our children need and our futures require.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

There is a great deal of information that points to the significant role of the hands in learning. Anyone who has paid a modicum of attention to observing his or her own learning experience, would know that “hands-on” is the key and won't need experts to tell you what you can see for yourself. But for those who don’t know their hands from a hole in the ground, there are some important things happening that tell us that we have it ALL wrong in most modern classrooms. Some of the research being done in a variety of areas tells us that we have grossly misunderstood the role of the hands in thinking and the development of intelligence.

The first item I’ll point to is the research that concludes that the playing of instrumental music in school has a significant effect on the development of math proficiency. I think it is particularly interesting to consider the role of the hands in the playing of music. It was Frank Wilson’s involvement in music that lead to his book, The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language and human culture, and while this particular research doesn’t specifically address the hand’s role in learning, instrumental music is clearly hands-on. Was it the music that made the difference, or the use of the hands in playing the music? It would take more extensive research to prove one way or the other. I strongly suspect that both have effect, the music and the hands that play it. The book describing the research can be found for download at The Arts Education Partnership Website. "Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Social and Academic Development," was sponsored by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Department of Education and was written by James Catterall, Karen Bradley, Larry Scripp, Terry Baker and Rob Horowitz. It is truly astounding how rarely the United States Government is able to take its own advice. It is a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

A second interesting bit of study involves the use of gesture. Susan Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago, author of books about the use of gesture, language and intelligence, hypothesizes that the movement of the hands actually facilitates the movement of thought in the brain. One book you might enjoy is Hearing Gesture: How Our Hands Help Us Think

From Susan: “Why must we move our hands when we speak? I suggest that gesturing may help us think - by making it easier to retrieve words, easier to package ideas into words, easier to tie words to the real world. If this is so, gesture may contribute to cognitive growth by easing the learner's cognitive burden and freeing resources for the hard task of learning.

"Moreover, gesture provides an alternate spatial and imagistic route by which ideas can be brought into the learner's cognitive repertoire. That alternative route of expression is less likely to be challenged (or even noticed) than the more explicit and recognized verbal route. Gesture may be more welcoming of fresh ideas than speech and in this way may lead to cognitive change.”

A third interesting bit of research is Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo, Ph.D. and Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D.
Their research into the use of hand signs in communication with toddlers has started a movement among parents wanting to give advantages to their own children. The results of the research show that:

At 24 months, the children taught sign language were on average talking more like 27 or 28 month olds. This represents more than a three-month advantage over the non-signing babies. In addition at 24 months the research subjects were putting together significantly longer sentences.

At 36 months, the children on average were talking like 47 month olds, putting them almost a full year ahead of their average age-mates.

Eight year olds who had been research subjects scored an average of 12 points higher in IQ than their non-signing peers.

It has become very clear that our understanding of the hand/brain system and the role the hands play in learning is far from complete. In the meantime, we are doing harm to our children by requiring them to sit idly at desks with hands stilled.

As a teacher, I have too little time to keep up with all the interesting things happening in the hand world, and I welcome your participation through comments or email to help keep us all informed.
The Nature and Art of Workmanship
by David Pye ...

David Pye, UK woodworker, philosopher and author explored the meaning of craftsmanship in his book “the Nature and Art of Workmanship”. The book questions many of the typical assumptions about the values inherent in work and the products of manufacturing and craftsmanship. Pye differentiates between “workmanship of certainty” in which the processes are mechanized, engineered and controlled to achieve a certainty of outcomes and “workmanship of risk” in which the outcome is less predictable and largely dependent on the attention and skill of the craftsman.

This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I couldn’t help but marvel at the simple invention moving through my mouth. It has an ultrasonic vibration that helps to remove microscopic particles, and it cost $3.87 at the local discount store. It is obvious that modern manufacturing is able to offer significant value in the goods made through what David Pye calls workmanship of certainty. If I were to attempt to make a simple toothbrush, I could spend much more than a day doing it, and still not be able to make one myself that would be so effective. Or, I might go outside and with prior knowledge and experience, simply choose something from the range of available natural materials that would suffice, but it would be far less effective than the tooth brush I used this morning.

The age of cheap manufactured goods has called the life of the craftsman or maker into question. It is an old problem, and one that John Ruskin attempted to address long before David Pye. How do we come to an understanding of the value of the handmade object? What are the attributes that give it value? In most circumstances, a handmade object can’t compete with a well-designed manufactured object in either usefulness or price. So where does it compete, and why would someone want to either make or purchase something made by hand?

If you are interested in this question, reading David Pye’s book is a good place to start. Personally, I think the answer lies in an exploration of our own values. If we are a “values damaged” society as suggested by Matti Bergstöm (see post of Thursday, September 14 this blog) and are only able to think of the objects in our lives in the economic terms of supply, demand, price and marginal utility, we might as well forget the hands and all the higher values in human life… things like love, the miracles of growth and the joy of discovery. But if there are other values at work in our lives, we will always have a need to be making things with our own hands and to treasure things made through the inspired hearts and skilled hands of others.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Step three…painted in a corner; out on a limb… or "where’s a good editor when you need one?"…A few days ago, I promised a simple step-by-step method to turn your life from passive shopper/consumer to one of artist, craftsman, maker. If I had a good editor present in my brain, I would have never made such promises. You may have noticed that steps one and two aren’t easy, and step 3 isn’t either unless you are somewhat tolerant of making a fool of yourself. Step 3 has to do with taking chances. Offering things like this simple step-by-step when you know that you really don’t know where you are going with the dialog except into the corner of your own creativity, and out on a limb where the branch is barely able to support your weight and the only way down is the tiny saw hidden amongst the blades on your Swiss knife..

It is fortunate that blogs really don’t have readers. We bloggers spew things out at an incredible pace, and there can’t possibly be enough readers to keep up with us. So, in effect, I can offer improbable advice, knowing full well that there are no bloggees risking their lives by following my step-by-step mind altering blather.

So step three is to follow my lead. Take chances. There is not an audience sitting in anticipation of watching you fall. If there happens to be one, pretend there isn’t. Art takes its place in the world through the taking of chances, the ignoring of editors, and through bending a few rules.

Tomorrow, Certainty and Risk... the discussions of meaning as suggested by David Pye.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Step two…A friend of mine, Albert, calls the material we engage through the hands, “the working surface”. This is a good concept because it notes that the surfaces we touch through the sensing of the hands, are also shaped by our touch, and possibly refined and made better though our conscious engagement and attention. Albert is a pizza maker, and applies his attention through his hands in the making of dough.

Is dough made with conscious application of mindfulness better than dough made mindlessly and without human care? There are many who would argue on opposing sides of the issue, with some probably believing that the mechanical processing would give more predictable results. Even the hands can be trained to do things mindlessly and without care or attention and get satisfactory results and there are millions of people who prefer squishy white bread. But here we are talking about art, the role of the hands in learning, and the restoration of greater meaning in human life. Greater meaning comes through the application of human attention.

As mentioned yesterday the"homunculus" diagrams illustrate both sensing and motor functions of the hand’s activities in the brain. In fact the hands are the only sensing instruments that also act creatively in human life. In most cases they perform both functions in a trained but unconscious state.

So step two is very much like step one. Restore your attention to the movements of your hands. When you pick up a pencil, pay attention to your grip, and then also pay attention to its movement across the page. When you wash dishes, take childish delight in the warmth of the water and then pay attention to the movement of your hands through it and over the surface of the plates, forks and knives. When you drive the car, consciously lay your fingers onto the wheel and make each movement one of connection and conscious intent. You will reclaim your hands from their unconscious state and liberate your creative consciousness from patterns of destructive thought.

Tomorrow, step three.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Step One...Yesterday, I promised some step-by-step procedure on how to move from the life of the consumer to the life of the craftsman or maker or artist. You may not want to make any changes in your life or you may not see the need. In that case you may be reading the wrong blog.

Every journey starts with the first step, and no skill comes without the direct application of attention and care over a period of time. The first step is actually quite simple and immensely difficult because it involves breaking from a shell composed of intricately woven patterns of thought. Our habits deny attention to the sensitivity of our own hands. We touch things and learn their textures and temperatures, and we use the hands to further refine the information provided by our eyes of their size and shape, but once that information is received, we shut down primary communication with the hands and allow it to be overridden by patterns of circling habitual thoughts from outside the moment.

We can drive hundreds of miles with our hands conforming to the shape of the steering wheel without ever consciously noting their existence and while our thoughts circle in our heads unrelated to the road, to the car, or even to the destination. Essentially, our bodies have become mechanical vessels for the containment of obsessive notions that are most often unrelated to reality and to which we have attached undue importance. All these thoughts swirling in our heads, could actually be useful if we also did things to carry them into action, but generally, we feel things, and even feel them deeply, then congratulate ourselves on the excellent qualities inherent our feelings and then do nothing.

Unused to direct action, and the risk and effort involved, it is far easier and more comfortable for us to simply allow ourselves to become distracted by other desires and the internal dialog related to them. So, we sit on our hands. In fact, our hands have become so well trained to inactivity that sitting on them is no longer necessary.

Days ago, I made reference to "homunculus" diagram published by Penfield and Rasmussen in the 1950 book, The Cerebral Cortex of Man. It illustrates the seemingly disproportionate amount of the cerebral cortex utilized by the human hand. In the diagram, sensing is shown in the drawing at the left, and motor function is shown on the right, illustrating the primal role of the human hand in both the sensing and creating sides of human endeavor.

You can see that the hands have both a sensing function, and a movement or working function. Both of these functions move quickly to the unconscious as the surfaces in which the hands become engaged are known, and the working movements are developed as skilled patterns, no longer requiring direct, conscious attention.

Take the time to notice the hands as they proceed through the exploration of a new object, hold a new tool, or learn a new task. If you are like me, you may notice that in your first time hold on a new object your senses will be acute to the shape, texture and temperature of the object. Then, when you pick up the same object again, and then again, your sensitivity will diminish, becoming unconscious. If the object were to change in some way, you would notice, but not otherwise. Training the motor functions of the hand is often more gradual depending on the complexity and sensitivity of the action required. As an example of a common tool, pick up a pencil or pen. Your prior use of the instrument, the position of it within the hand, its angle in relation to the paper, and its movement across the page, are things learned and practiced throughout your life. At this point in your experience, you can hold a pen or pencil and write with no conscious attention to its presence in your own hand and write with no conscious notice of the movements of the hand.

A step-by-step path to artistic consciousness and growth proceeds as follows: First pay attention to your hands. It is by paying attention that you begin to divert your attention from circling thoughts to the surface of the world you inhabit. First will come a renewed sense of it. Withdraw your attention from the circling thoughts in your mind and place that same attention on the temperature, texture and form of the objects you come in contact with. Whether it is the water used for washing the dishes, or the shape and feel of the steering wheel on your car, the sensory experience of touch can move your experience from the unconscious to the conscious realm, and become the foundation of change in your life.

Tomorrow we will talk about step two.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sawdust Therapy...…Many woodworkers call their time in the woodshop, "sawdust therapy" in recognition of the kinds of feelings they get from it. A woodshop can be an escape from the pressures of the world. We can go into our workshops and feel rejuvenated and empowered. We can fall into creative activities that wisp us away into mental states in which time passes unnoticed and from which we emerge refreshed.

I particularly notice the effect when I’ve been away from the shop for some time. I take the first piece of wood and pass one edge across the jointer in preparation to start a project. An immediate sense of wellbeing comes over me. I've learned in conversations with other woodworkers and those involved in other hands-on activities, whether in the studio, the garden or the kitchen, that their feelings are the same.

We live with so many things in this world that we can't control, with each having such huge impact on our lives. Time in the woodshop, making something that requires our loving attention can take our minds off things we can do nothing about and places it squarely on things that we can control.

Move a gouge into the turning stock on a lathe, and you will observe the change in shape of the wood and the stream of shavings that fly from the cutting edge. Move a plane down the length of a board and you watch the ribbon of wood emerge from the mouth of the plane and then feel the straight smooth edge that results from your labor. Even something as simple as moving a piece of sand paper along the surface of a board, leaves noticeable effect, changing the state of the wood from coarse to smooth and at the same time having a similar effect on the mental and emotional state of the craftsman. Sometimes the effects are small, and you will need to pay careful attention but they are cumulative and will have affect.

It is interesting that one of the primary symptoms of depression is the sense of loss of control in one's own life. You can feel like things are spinning away on their own unrelated to your own input or control. With this in mind, you can see how a woodworker might call it "therapy."

If you watch carefully, and are engaged in observations of your own hands at work, you will see that a "feedback loop" is in effect. Can you see how this direct feedback loop can be used as a counter to the devastating symptoms of depression?

It is interesting that many people deal with depressive episodes by shopping. To go into a store and get feedback in the form of attention and acknowledgement from a clerk, and then to go out and be noticed by friends wearing your most recent acquisitions can shift attitudes, as long as you can afford the costs, the extensive time involved in shopping and are shallow enough to think that the attentions of the sales clerk are earned by something other that the available credit line on your charge card. As a contrast, imagine the feedback you can get in the making of an object; first in your own feelings of growth and success, and then in sharing it with others? Can you see a difference between attention bought and attention earned?

Check your credit line and the depth of your character to see the limits of the one course of action. Look to your imagination, and your willingness to put your time and attention in the practice of an art for the other. As a craftsman, I mourn for those who don't know the difference.

It is amazing how easy it is to see things and understand things, and how difficult it can be to actually turn the tide of one's life from empty consumerism to fulfillment of one's life and potentials in the arts. Please tune in tomorrow for the simple step-by-step.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What in the world are we doing? While technology hurls us headlong into a proposed glorious (or dubious) future, the actual human organism advances at a snail's pace. The evolutionary changes in the human organism are such that if one of us were to be directly compared with one of our ancestors of over 10,000 years ago, very little difference could be found. The structures within the brain would be the same.

Life has always been experimental. Failed experiments fall to the wayside, while the fundamental organism trods on through time. At no time, however has life been more experimental, and some of us have concerns about the risks we present to our children. Scientific experiments usually try to control certain variables so that the implications of other variables can be determined and understood. As we hurtle head-on into our technological age, there are no fixed variables to help us to predict or even understand our fate. The education of our children is perhaps the least scientific of all our endeavors, and perhaps the area in which our culture is most at risk.

My old college economics professor said that the real cost of something isn't the money spent on it, but what you have given up in order to have it. The real costs of our computer driven educational model isn't the amount of money being spent on it but that we have allowed it to take the place of other kinds of time tested and proven processes through which hand-brain learning has systematically developed human intelligence.

When I was a child, my hands were always busy manipulating a wide variety of materials, digging in the earth, folding paper, braiding string, yarn and hair, hammering and sawing, and in the place of these diverse manipulations, we have substituted the keyboard. None who have had the chance to see a young man or woman of today using a keyboard will doubt that they too, are engaged with the world through their hands. But, there is a difference. The keys are designed to be free of texture, and temperature neutral to prevent obstruction of input into the digital process. In gaming, motions are purposely a-rhythmic, requiring what some have described as twitch mechanism to gain success. This is quite unlike the varied textures and the rhythmic and soothing hand motions one would find in braiding or various forms of textile work, or other crafts. And as any woodworker or student of woodworking or of any other craft can tell, to have tangible, tactile, hold-in-your-hands and touch consequences to your actions is to commune and connect with the miraculous. The digital world can't come close.

There is a saying in woodworking, that if the only tool you have is a hammer, all the world's challenges look like nails. The current situation is that while the computer can be a wonderful and effective tool, we have placed it in our children's hands to the absolute and certain neglect of all the other tools from which our culture was derived. If the computer is the only tool our children have, will they begin to see all the world's problems as issues to be resolved through a change in data entry? We already live in an age of media spin in which facts are twisted and retold in ways to shape our opinions contrary to the hands-on common sense we might have acquired with real tools working with the actual substance of the material world. The message of modern times is this: If you don't like the way things are, don't change them. Lie about them over and over until you get someone to believe you and then maybe you will even start to believe them yourself. And yet, there is still a real world out there, and those with hands, brains and hearts can discover things.

The image above is a stone hammer used by native Americans. Found in gardening our front yard, it had been shaped by hand to fit the hand and was probably used in the grinding of small seeds and nuts and perhaps in the softening of hides. It was only by holding in my own hand that its use could be discovered.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Canes and T-squares...One of the best things about teaching woodshop is the opportunity to be creatively engaged in work with children. There are literally thousands of things that can be made from wood that can connect children with their communities or deepen the educational experience. I've found that as my confidence has grown, my imagination has grown also, and it has become quite easy to come up with projects that integrate and support nearly every field of study. I've placed a couple example projects on my website today, making them available for download as pdf files. You are welcome to use these projects in your own classroom, or with your own children in the woodshop. The canes were made as a public service project with seventh and eighth grades. The students enjoyed the project so much that some decided to make canes for themselves as well. "I plan to be old someday," one student said.
The T-squares were made with a 9th grade class prior to a unit in drafting. I wanted them to make their own tools that they could take home with them, enabling the students to carry the experience and skills acquired away from the classroom.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mora in May. We arrived in Mora on prom night after a long drive from Nääs. Mora is an industrial city at the heart of Sweden. After finding a hotel, my traveling companion Jim and I went out for a walk and noticed that there were scores of old American cars from the 50's, 60's and 70's, in varying degrees of restoration, from pristine to works in progress. The one that impressed us the most was a Chevelle from the early 60's with a 396 engine and slicks. We first heard the very loud and prolonged screaming of tires on pavement, and then were blanketed in a thick, acrid cloud of burned rubber.

When we told new friends in Nääs that we would be driving first to Mora and then to my conference in Umeå, they were somewhat incredulous. It would take so long, they said. Evidently the great American roadtrip is uncommon in Sweden where gas prices are about $7.00 a gallon.

On the way to Mora, we drove through beautiful countryside, largely unihabited forest and lake shore. When we found "loppis" or "Loppamarknad" (flea market) advertised in the small towns, we stopped to look for antique Sloyd knives. Of course the ones I found and bought were marked Mora, as that was the city in which they were traditionally made, and where they are still made today. So, our journey with Sloyd at its heart through the heartlands of Sweden was made more complete by our arrival in Mora, a small city on the shores of one of Europe's largest meteor crater lakes.

We asked at the hotel, about the surprising number of old American cars. One hotel clerk explained that it was prom night and that instead of renting limosines as in the US, they ride around in old American cars. Another clerk explained that in the darkness of the long winter nights, the people have to have something to do, so for many, fixing up old American cars is a passion. They fix them and then the first nice weekend after the ice melts on the lake, they drive. For some, like the young man with the Chevelle, the driving is wild. My last view of his car was headed down the highway with the hands of his companions holding their vodka bottles out the windows on both sides.

Prior to the industrial revolution, when Sweden was primarily a farming country, men and women sat by the fire on long winter nights crafting things that were both useful and beautiful in which they took great pride, and which provided a source of revenue from their local communities. The industrial revolution changed a few things. The abundance of cheap but well made consumer goods eliminated the market for the hand-crafted goods that were previously bartered among friends. So, the farmers, bored with long winter nights learned to make Vodka. Does this sound like a fairy tale? Perhaps by Brothers Grimm?

You can see this same scenario played out in third world countries today. There are things that happen to people when the value of their heritage is lost, and when the deeper values of their own work are obscured. In fact, you can find the same phenomenon here in Arkansas where lives are destroyed by alcohol and meth.

There is a saying that using firewood to heat your home warms you twice. First there is the warmth (you might call it sweat) that comes from cutting and splitting, and then there is the warmth that comes from burning it in your stove.

Making something from wood serves you twice, first in the making as you discover your creative power, and then when the object takes its place of usefulness and beauty in your home. When you have become experienced in the making and know the feelings of empowerment that come from your own creativity, you will know that the making is even better than the having. To give up our role as makers to become mere consumers of an endless chain of meaningless objects is tragic. It could drive you to the desperation of making your own Vodka.

But, things can be changed and made right. Make sure your children get to spend some time with scissors, knives, hammers, saws, wood, clay, or even cardboard. Have tools available so they can take things apart when they break and learn how things work and maybe fix them. It may ultimately serve them better than struggling for an extra point on the ACT. We are beginning to understand the role of the hands in the development of intelligence, and your children with the right tools and understanding may surpass the dreams you have for them.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sloyd in

I have been busy posting an entry in the Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia about Sloyd. My sister Sue read the blog and noted that while she knew a bit about Sloyd, very few people in the whole country that didn't know me, or hadn't read my articles in Woodwork Magazine would know the least thing about it.

Over the next weeks or months, if you hang around, you will learn quite a bit about about Sloyd and perhaps even learn how to use it in the modern classroom. If you would like to know a bit more now please read the article at The photo above is from an early Sloyd text.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Narrative qualities of work...Many craft artists consider their work to be narrative, meaning it tells a story. Some use words inscribed in the work to connect it with a particular episode or important principle in their lives. But all craft work is narrative in that it records the artist's understanding of the material, his or her level of skill, and much more. Of course it also records the hours involved in the making of the work, and the years involved in the development of skill. A particular piece of work may record a moment of discovery, or a point of arrival at a new plateau both in the life of the artist or in the whole of human culture. Great museums are full of objects whose significance is not their beauty alone, but the stories that they've recorded and tell of human history.

The photo above is the tine or cheesebox that my great grandmother carried from Norway as a young woman of 11 in 1865. In it she carried her prized personal possessions. It was a simpler time. Imagine a child of today trying to decide which of his or her things were significant enough to fill the limited space within a small box. When my mother was a child, her grandmother's tine was where the family photos were kept. Then during my childhood, the box was empty, and yet it was treasured as a connection with family heritage.

It is not perfect workmanship, and that it exists over a hundred and fifty years after it was made, perhaps tells more about my family and love shared through generations than it does about its maker. The latches were broken off and are missing. A crack through the lid was fixed at some point with nails. The red milk paint turned brown very long ago. It exists at this point because people through generations made decisions about its significance, then sheltered it, repaired it, dusted it, and kept it in a place of honor.

I know this is only one of millions of blogs on the internet in which words are spewed at an unimaginable rate. Objects have become the same: meaningless, disposable, troubling as they congest our homes, and still we have painful longings for more and new and "better." The tine reminds me of a simple time when the objects in people's lives were a reflection of skill, craftsmanship, love, personal attention and growth. It also reminds me that objects may tell our stories, our lives, and our hopes in a narrative clearer and more honest than words alone. An object, lovingly crafted can tell that story for generations.

Develop a skill and make something that will tell of your own aspirations, your love and your humanity. Invest your attention and your care deeply in your work. One hundred and fifty years from today, someone will look back.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Objects of meaning and the deeper meaning of things. Last year I asked some of my woodworking students if they had any objects in their homes of which they knew the maker. "I have the box I made in woodshop, one said." "My mom has the bowl I turned," said another. This presents a striking contrast with an earlier age in which ALL the objects in the home would have been made by someone close and were objects that reflected the warmth of family and community. Objects in our lives have become devoid of meaning. We struggle to attain them, working long hours to earn the money for them, in the vain hopes that they will fulfill our longings. We savor them for brief moments before the newness wears on us. Then, because they have no deeper meaning, we pass them along in landfills and yard sales.

As a point of contrast, I am reminded of Wharton Esherick, "Dean of American Craftsmen" whose home in Paoli, Pennsylvania is now a museum. Everything in his home was either made by him, or made by a fellow artist and each object expresses an exceptional level of human attention and love.

According to Matti Bergström, a professor and neurophysiologist from Finland:

"The density of nerve endings in our fingertips is enormous. Their discrimination is almost as good as that of our eyes. If we don't use our fingers, if in childhood and youth we become "finger-blind " this rich network of nerves is impoverished-which represents a huge loss to the brain and thwarts the individual's all-around development. Such damage may be likened to blindness itself. Perhaps worse, while a blind person may simply not be able to find this or that object, the finger-blind cannot understand its inner meaning and value."

"If we neglect to develop and train our children's fingers and the creative form building capacity of their hand muscles, then we neglect to develop their understanding of the unity of things; we thwart their aesthetic and creative powers."

"Those who shaped our age-old traditions always understood this. But today, Western civilization, an information-obsessed society that over values science and undervalues true worth, has forgotten it all. We are "value-damaged."

There is a difference between the object made perfectly, but carelessly by machines, and the object less perfectly made that records the love and attention of the human being who made it. You might be "values damaged" as Dr. Bergström describes and see the world only in terms of supply, demand, price and the accumulation of dollars and cents. You may never hold an object with a clear sense of the creative spirit of the man or woman who made it.

Those who are engaged as children in creative processes with skilled hands, will be the ones who understand life at a deeper level, and in the end will make life meaningful for themselves and others.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Notes on the ways we learn...I presented a paper at an academic conference in Sweden in May. "Traditions in Transition" at Umeå Universitet was the first international conference on Sloyd and was attended by about 150 educators from 19 different countries. I felt a bit nervous presenting at an academic conference. After all, this was the first time I'd spent any time on a university campus since 1970 and I wondered how well I and my ideas would be accepted. In fact, one of my fellow attendees asked why I was associated with a small independent school rather than a university. Of course, my answer was, "what would I learn there?"

I knew from an examination of my own learning style that when I became interested in education, the only way for me to learn about it would be to teach. Theories are great when you have the opportunity to apply them, and have a means to test their accuracy and validity. Without the means to put words and work into the test of practical experience, they have no value to me. Nor should they have value quite so much value to others.

In 1983, Howard Gardner published his significant book, Frames of Mind, in which he rightly proposed that there are a variety of significant and important "intelligences" that aren't measured in the standardized testing, or acknowledged as valid in the educational system. Now, in American education, it would be difficult to get a degree in teaching without becoming aware of Howard Gardner's theories. The unfortunate situation, however, is that in order to get into the university to begin with, you need to be successful in the specific learning style and represent the particular "intelligence" that universities are designed to accept and encourage. Without the practical application and training to meet diverse learning styles in the university setting, Multiple Intelligences is a hollow concept. It has been proven that people tend to teach only in a manner that reflects their own learning style. As teachers rise through the system, becoming supervisors and administrators, they are filtered once again, further eliminating those whose intelligences are least represented in education.

With the advent of the No Child Left Behind legislation in the US, the pressures on teachers has been increased, and the likelihood of them being free to engage in experimentation in delivering lessons in various learning styles has been virtually eliminated.

But, my point is not to challenge NCLB legislation. It is a ridiculous mess of unfunded burden on teachers and schools but only part of a much larger problem. Instead, I challenge every American with a diploma. I ask you how we can make room in the universities for Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences, allowing credentials and acknowledgement to those outside the verbal linguistic realm and allowing them to take their places within our schools and educational institutions? I know this may be a hard thing for university educated people to take. You may have become comfortable resting on the security of your diploma while you may not even have the skills or understanding required to fix a leaking faucet.

Have I offended? Perhaps I've hit a nerve that requires thoughtful examination. I would suggest a reading of Mike Rose's book "The Mind at Work : Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker." It reminds us that there are many expressions of intelligence required in our modern civilization, and that each deserves admiration, encouragement and respect.

It should also be noted that there are many people within universities throughout the world that have come to understand the importance of diverse expressions of intelligence, are cognizant of the role of the hands in learning and are working to bring change. I was grateful that my presentation in May was warmly received at Umeå, and that I discovered so many new friends.
I had 14 students at a time in the woodshop today, which is actually too many for my small classroom, so I am reminded that I need to divide the fifth and sixth grades into two groups in the future. It seems that in many schools 14 in the woodshop would be considered small or normal, and I have to marvel at the kinds of job most woodworking teachers are called to perform. The amount of materials preparation can be overwhelming, and in schools where they tend to be too little appreciated, and in schools where the real value of woodworking education is misunderstood, teaching woodshop can be very challenging.

In recent years, it has been generally assumed that woodworking was where you placed slow learners, who would not be taking more academic subjects. It was often thought to be the place where troubled youth could be parked to keep them in line, out of trouble, and in the school system rather than allowing them to drop out. All of that is very far from the original intent.

The "fathers" of manual training in the US, John D. Runkle at MIT and Calvin Woodward at Washington University, had noticed that their engineering students were having a great deal of trouble thinking in three dimensions. Their students' academic work was leaving them handicapped with regard to the kinds of spatial understanding and awareness that were required to advance in engineering. So in the late 1870's Runkle and Woodward started woodworking programs to bring the developmental benefits of woodworking education to their students and their thinking skills.

If you compare that original intent with the common perceptions held by many in education, you may notice that we missed the boat. If you compare our very middle of the road national education performance with that of Finland for example you will notice the boat left without us. This has been measured by PISA, an international organization concerned with advancements in education. While the PISA study doesn't make any claims relative to the use of a crafts centered curriculum, it should be noted that Finland has had a compulsory woodworking program for ALL their students for over 100 years. We've virtually killed ours over the last 20.

There is a well-documented link between math skills and "spatial sense," described by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) as “an intuitive feel for one's surroundings and objects in them. According to the NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, "Geometry and spatial sense are fundamental components of mathematics education. They offer ways to interpret and reflect on our physical environment through abstraction. They support creative thought in all mathematics"

According to the Standards, "spatial visualization includes building and manipulating mental representations of shapes, relationships, and transformations."

Can you imagine a more effective process for developing spatial sense than in the use of tools to cut, assemble and manipulate materials into useful and decorative forms?

So, today, even though we had too many in the woodshop at one time, some wonderful things took place. Some of the children bent nails. Some of the children made scroll saw cuts that wandered from the lines. Some put things together backwards and had to take things apart and fix them. None messed up so badly that they didn't walk away with a tongue drum to use in the upcoming concert. In the meantime, there were things that took place in the process that built character, awareness, concentration, imagination and creativity. Also math, measuring, and spatial sense that will help prepare these students for algebra. And we all had fun.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Today in the woodshop at Clear Spring School we started a project making musical instruments. Third and fourth grades made simple percussion instruments we call "thing-a-ma-jigs" with small wooden mallets for hammering on them. First and second grades made sanding blocks. Tomorrow we conclude the project with the fifth and sixth grades making "tongue drums" and the seventh and eighth grades making turned rhythm sticks on the lathes.

While some woodshops operate as separate classes, independent and isolated from other school activities, the Wisdom of the Hands program is intended as an integrative activity, bringing all other subjects to greater interest and life through the woodshop. All the teaching staff at Clear Spring School are creatively engaged in the woodshop and are often as excited to be making things from wood as their students are. The projects are usually planned based on their suggestions and to reinforce the current area of study, so naturally they want to be involved.

The instrument making project came at the suggestion of our music teacher, Karen Fitzpatrick, who has a special song in mind for the children. A public performance is planned in October. The song requires percussion instruments of wood, metal and plastic. The wood instruments are being made in the woodshop, and the students and their parents have been providing the creativity and effort for the rest.

It is interesting that in all the polls of job satisfaction and expectations, the things that rank highest for most people is to feel creatively engaged in the work and to know that they are making a difference. I would like to note that our nation is moving on the wrong track by increasing pressures to enforce conformity in the delivery of curricula. Teachers need to know that they are making a difference and that their own ideas have come into play in what they teach. Children and teachers often need the same thing, the sense of fulfillment that comes from planning, thinking, exploring and discovery.

I can talk about all the other things that woodworking does for children in schools later. In fact, in the coming weeks or months, I can talk your head off. Today, let's think about teachers. Let's ask ourselves how we can help them to know that they are making a difference and let's ask ourselves how we can make their lives, lives of exploration and discovery. No Child Left Behind and the greater emphasis on delivery of canned curriculum are steps very clearly in the wrong direction. I am very grateful to be engaged at Clear Spring School, in a creative environment where I know that each day I can make a difference.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lessons from the woodshop...

It is election time again in Eureka Springs and as always, I stand in admiration of those willing to put their time toward betterment of our community. Unfortunately, if patterns play out as in countless times before, by January, all of the best intentions fall to naught, and the rudeness begins. I have never lived anyplace like Eureka. I have always been in love with this community. And I am always very sad about the disturbing qualities of our public discourse.

One of my favorite sayings is from Jean Jacques Rousseau: “Put a young man in a woodshop, his hands work to the benefit of his brain; he becomes a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman.”

There are many things to be learned in the woodshop that apply to life outside its doors. The first has to do with the care of tools. They must be kept sharp. In their making, they were carefully hardened to hold an edge, and then tempered to keep from being brittle. Extreme care is given in the sharpening of a craftsman’s tools. If during the process of sharpening the tool, the metal becomes too hot, it loses its temper and its hardness, and will no longer keep a good edge. At that point, the tool must be extensively reworked or discarded.

Here in Eureka, at least in politics, it seems that it is acceptable to lose your temper, lose you cool, and then proceed into public discourse with axes grinding. Reckless sparring with a blunt axe may even bring applause from other dull blades.

A true craftsman would know the ineffectiveness of the blunt edge: that he does damage to the material and his community by performing as a rude hack.

A note of warning and hopefulness to those who wish to serve: It is difficult to break old habits, and the deep-seated patterns of rude public discourse will be challenging to break. Even if you make your own commitment to civility, there will be those who will challenge you rudely and without reason. Keep cool. Keep your temper. If you lose it, you have lost your effectiveness and your work will do more damage than good. The sharpness of your intellect is essential to the job for which you have volunteered. Of equal importance is the kindness of the manner in which the sharp edge of your intelligence is applied. If we each are held accountable first and foremost to our display of civility and compassion we will find greater joy and ease in being of service.

If each of those running for public office were to make commitments first and foremost to civility of speech and behavior, recognizing that a community of loving kindness, civility and respect is more important overall than the specifics of our many individual objectives we will see a dramatic change for the best.

Doug Stowe

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I have a few things I want to share today, and I have uploaded them to my website so they can be accessed. The first is an article about my program at Clear Spring School from Woodcraft Magazine. It appeared in the Back to School section of the magazine in November 2005. Click Here to download. Second is an article about my investigation of Educational Sloyd at Clear Spring School. It is from the August 2005 issue of Woodwork Magazine. It is a pre-publication version of the article, so some of the captions and the finished artwork aren't in place, but that won't prevent your understanding of the concept. Click Here to download. The third item is a piece I worked on with Jack Grube of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers. It is a promotional piece designed to help school administrators, school boards and parents understand the value of woodworking education.Click Here to download. Finally (for today), I want to share an opinion piece I wrote for Northern Woodlands Magazine. It is the shortest read. Please Click Here.

I hope that this blog can be a place for the exchange of ideas and move from the theoretical to the practical, and then from the practical to a better theoretical understanding of how we learn and provide a stable foundation for change. I invite you to share your own comments and observations.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The significance of the hands relative to the other sense organs of the human body is described very clearly in how we talk about what these organs do. The eyes see. The ears hear. The tongue tastes. The nose smells. The hands not only touch, they also "feel." While the sensing done by the eyes, ears and nose are at some distance. The sensing of the hands is more deeply personal and is described in terms alluding to deep emotional connections. Hearing and seeing describe the acquisition of ideas and knowledge. The sensing activity of the hands, "feeling," describes what goes on at the very core of the human being; the place some refer to as the "heart." We describe our deepest emotional states in terminology that reflects sensing through the hands. We describe being touched, when stories told by others induce us to feel most deeply. We describe as touching, those circumstances that remind us of the deepest and richest levels of human experience.

There was an interesting issue of Time magazine 17 April 2006. The cover story, "Dropout Nation," described the problem we face in the United States with a dropout rate of 30 percent. The consistent theme expressed by our children, those who drop out, and even those who don't is that school is boring and irrelevant to their lives.

With students sitting idly at desks with hands stilled, can you see how we have failed to engage their hearts?

You might be interested in the "homunculus" diagram published by Penfield and Rasmussen in the 1950 book, The Cerebral Cortex of Man. It illustrates the seemingly disproportionate portion of the cerebral cortex utilized by the human hand. In the diagram, sensing is at the left, and motor function in on the right, illustrating the primal role of the human hand in both the sensing and creating sides of human endeavor.
Yesterday, I mentioned that there are some authorities in the hand/brain learning system investigation. I was pleased that the first comment composed and left on my site was from Frank R. Wilson, MD. Frank is the author of a significant book, The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language and human culture. I began corresponding with Frank when I read his book and realized that my observations of my own process of hands-on learning weren't unique in my own life, but actually described humanity in the largest sense. Friendship with Frank has been a uniquely rewarding experience, helping me to realize that despite my lack of academic status, my own observations were valid, and that gave me courage to lend my voice to an international debate on education.

Through Frank's kindness and encouragement, I have been introduced to a wide range of educators and hands-on learning enthusiasts all of whom might be regarded as authorities in their fields. During the months or years of my future involvement in this blog, I hope to introduce you to them. It is my hope, however, that you will find greatest authority in the examination of your own learning and the diligent and conscious study of your own hands.

Before I close for the day I want to share something from Frank that clearly explains the significance of the hands in our lives. You can see these same concepts present in the comment left by Frank in yesterday's blog describing the hands-on intellectual growth of his first grandchild.

“No one knows precisely when our ancestors started handling textiles and manufacturing thread, but our ability to do this, along with many other tasks, was made possible because of two critical and parallel changes in upper limb and brain structure. Biomechanical changes in the hand permitted a greatly enlarged range of grips and movements of the hand and fingers; the brain provided new control mechanisms for more complex and refined hand movements. These changes took place over millions of years, and because of the mutual interdependence of hand and brain it is appropriate to say that the human hand and brain co-evolved as a behavioral system.

The entire open-ended repertoire of human manipulative skill rests upon a history of countless interactions between individuals and their environments, natural materials and objects. The hand brain system, or partnership, that came into being over the course of millions of years is responsible for the distinctive life and culture of human society. This same hand-brain partnership exists genetically as a developmental instruction program for every living human. Each of us, beginning at birth, is predisposed to engage our world and to develop our intelligence primarily through the agency of our hands."

Friday, September 08, 2006

In order to understand the importance of the hands in learning, I can point you to a number of authorities. But first, I ask you to make a few personal observations. We have become a society reliant on experts. We hire people to tell us things about our lives, when we might find the greatest truths through simple and direct observation. For instance, we turn on the Weather Channel to learn the temperature, when we might step outside instead, feeling the chill or warmth of the air on our own skin.

He is a simple thing to help you to begin your own observatons. Pick up a long stick and hold it if front of you. Now close your eyes. You can feel in the tensions of your hand whether or not the stick is vertical, or slightly out of balance. You can feel or direct its motion, pointing it straight up or feel the weight of it when it moves away from dead balance.

When you pick up a tool for the first time, whether it is a chisel or a pencil, the same dynamic principles are measured by the hand. The hand, measuring and adapting to those forces moves from the foreground of awareness to the background , disappearing from conscious thought as it learns the weight, form and movement of the object. In the use of a chisel, the hand itself can disappear from thought and consciousness to the degree that the only thing felt in the mind is the position and sharpness of the cutting edge. We take our hands for granted due to the extremely close integration between the hand and brain in the development of our consciousness and our awareness of the world around us.

As an excercise in the development of your own wisdom, I invite you to watch carefully today as your fingers engage the keyboard, as you write notes in pencil to a friend, as you pick up a bag of groceries, pull a book down from the shelf, or wipe the tear from the eye of a child. Hands that we take for granted are the key to being fully engaged in our lives, sensing and creating.

Engagement in learning through the hands is the purpose of my program at the Clear Spring School . You can learn more about my school program, Wisdom of the Hands at

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Welcome to my Wisdom of the Hands Blog. I have been a woodworker for over 30 years, making furniture and small boxes for a few local patrons and a small list of galleries across the US. In 1995 I began writing articles for woodworking magazines, and in 1997, my first woodworking book, Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques was published. Since that time, I wrote 4 more books, became a contributing editor for Woodwork Magazine, have had additional articles published in Woodcraft, a couple of UK woodworking magazines and in Fine Woodworking. It is easy to see that my woodworking experience opened the door to other things.

The most important thing to develop in my life has been a concept I call "the Wisdom of the Hands". I realized that my own craftsmanship provided a common sense understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, and practical power to do things that were deeply satisfying and that emerged from my own creativity.

I became concerned at the loss of woodworking programs in schools. I had been informed through discussions with others on the internet that woodshop was no longer relevant. We were in an information age they said, and manufacturing was no longer necessary in the American economy, so teaching children to make things was no longer relevant in their education. Knowing how to do skillful things was no longer required. For the student of today, having a head full of information and the ability to take tests to prove retention while displaying no motivation toward meaningful action is tragically enough!

I realized that as a published author and respected member of the woodworking community, I had a responsibility to pass on to future generations the things that I had learned about learning, and the value of hands-on education for all students. To that end, and in deference to my own learning style, I started a 1st through 12th grade woodworking program at Clear Spring School in my adopted home town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The experience of starting a woodworking program, sharing an understanding of the deep connections between the hands and brain in learning, and generating a shared understanding of how we can renew education in America to reflect our humanity at its deepest levels are the purposes of this blog. If you are interested, please join me.

Doug Stowe