Thursday, December 03, 2009

the following from down under...

Richard Bazeley writes:
I have 3 Physics students in my year 12 Furniture class. Yesterday we practiced hand cut dovetails in preparation for their drawer making project. I asked them at the end of the session which is more difficult, Physics or making dovetails? It may not be the right question yet but I am interested in their answers when they compare the types of thinking involved in other subjects with what they do in a furniture class. It is a great opportunity to have some students who have some success in the ”academic” disciplines and who also succeed in a practical area to discuss this matter with.
What I should ask is what are the similarities between solving a problem in Physics and joining two pieces of wood. It is understanding the connections that is important.

I had a building student ask me the other day “What is Geometry?” How could I explain to him as I picked myself of the floor that the whole world of the work that he is entering is based on Geometry? Teaching woodwork gives us the opportunity to teach about the connections.
I think your students would find some very strong connections between physics and cutting dovetails if you can get them to watch carefully as the saw does its job. Too many times we just do things rather than watching closely. One of the shortcomings that early psychologist Dr. William T. Harris found with manual training in the early days was as follows:
"Tool work without the theory of construction is educative to some extent, especially in the first stages of its practice. Tool work taught with the theory of machinery, with applied mathematics, is far more educative than mere tool work; and its educative influence lasts for a much longer time. Tool work with its theory and with natural science is permanently educative, and it does much to raise manual labor above drudgery; and especially is this the case if it is studied with the history of ornamentation and with careful cultivation of aesthetic taste.

But when compared with the present course of study in the schools it cannot be claimed that manual training opens any new window of the soul, although it may give a more distinct view from the window that opens toward inorganic nature."
Dr. Harris, while being critical of the manual training he saw practiced in schools was a major advocate of Kindergarten.

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