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.


  1. Being a creative collaborator is s skill that few seem to have by the time they reach college. Many students reluctantly participate in group assignments complaining that they could have gotten a better grade by themselves and that group projects are only done to make the professor's grading easier.

  2. My daughter had that experience in high school. A group project usually meant that she did all the work and did all the learning. Where group projects arise from shared interests, it can be a very good thing. That may not often be the case.