Monday, December 11, 2006

Wisdom of the Hands Annual Report
Doug Stowe 12/11/06

It has been another good year in the Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School. It has been a year in which growing numbers of educators have become aware of our program and in which we have begun serving an even larger audience as a role model for education. In May 2006 I was invited to present a paper at the first international Conference on Sloyd in Umeå, Sweden and then in June was a panelist on Furniture education at the Furniture Society Conference in Indianapolis. In addition, we are anxiously awaiting the publication of two articles on the Wisdom of the Hands program in two educational journals, each in their winter issues. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice is published by Great Ideas in Education,, and Independent Schools is published by the National Association of Independent Schools, the parent body for ISACS, the organization through which Clear Springs School receives its accreditation. Yet another woodworking education article will be published in the April issue of Woodwork magazine.

The Wisdom of the Hands program has made its first inroads into public education. Laura Waters, parent of Clear Spring alumni and art teacher in Rogers, Arkansas used the Wisdom of the Hands as the model program in applying for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Funds were awarded for the 2006-2007 school year and covered the cost of buying tools. Woodworking has become one of the favorite school activities in the schools where Laura teaches. Laura reports that normally disciplinary removal from the classroom is thought to be fun by some of the students in her schools. Not so, when it comes to woodworking! The students can’t stand to miss a minute of it. One 5th grade girl asked Laura as she was sawing and sawing on a piece of wood, “ Miss Waters, is this art or PE?” I guess it is a bit of both, and perhaps that explains some of the intense enjoyment the children find in it. The Wisdom of the Hands program provided the theoretical foundation for Laura’s program and also provided her with training and plans for developing student projects.

The 2005-06 school year was the year for self-study for renewal of accreditation. Inspired by the Wisdom of the Hands program, the board of Clear Spring School reviewed its mission statement and modified it to reflect the importance of hands-on education to the lives of our children. "Together, all at the Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a hands-on and hearts-engaged educational environment."

At the close of this year’s accreditation team site visit, the team leader, Gus Favreau, stated the following: “Many schools claim to be progressive, but we find they are not. Clear Spring School is progressive. Many schools claim to be hands-on, but we find they are not. Clear Spring School is Hands-on.” Of all the 25 schools he had visited as accreditation team leader, he found Clear Spring School to be most closely aligned to the fulfillment of its mission.

Needless to say, we at Clear Spring School are excited about what we have achieved through steady application of hands-on learning. As stated in the mission, we are hands-on and hearts-engaged.

I have started a web-log to promote the Wisdom of the Hands program and hands-on learning. While this is a private endeavor and not directly associated with Clear Spring School, it has become an important tool for sharing what we are learning with others. The address of the blog site is:

This year we are excited to have six foreign exchange students, all of whom have been involved in wood shop, and we have found woodworking to be a great tool for enhancing language development.

In the elementary and middle schools this year, we have made musical instruments for public school performances during the 54th Annual Folk Festival, We made recycling containers for all the classroom. We have used original Sloyd project plans from the 1890’s to make gifts and useful objects. We have experimented with Paper Sloyd in the lower elementary classes, giving students a foundation for 3-D design.

Our current project has involved students from all grade levels. We are making toy cars out of wood for holiday distribution to needy children. The students have all cheerfully taken part, with one small caveat. They ask, “Can we each make one for ourselves after the holidays?”

We were very sorry to lose our woodworking assistant at the close of last school year, but have hired a Clear Spring High School graduate to take her place during his gap year before college. Luke has a particular love of wood turning and 4 years of wood shop training. His obvious love of working with the children makes us hope that he will be inspired to teach after his college education is complete. During the 2006-07 school year, the Wisdom of the Hands program continues to serve the students at Clear Spring School, grades pre-school -12th while serving others as a role model for modern education.

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