Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lee Valley Newsletter

The Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School is featured in this month's Lee Valley Woodworking Newsletter. It is a clear description of our woodworking program.

The photos above and below show the kids' work on making toy planes. This was such a great day in the wood shop, and the kids were enthusiastic in expressing their thanks for the opportunity to have so much fun at school. I would hope that every teacher in the world might receive such unsolicited feedback from their students.

Yesterday, I mentioned that just as tool making is unique to the human experience, so too, is teaching. No other species demonstrates a conscious pedagogical relationship between generations. You can see in the photo above, the human relationship between adult and child, as teacher assists student in nailing parts of her plane.

The idea of advanced technology in schools is to eliminate or diminish the importance of close personal relationship between adult and child, thus restructuring what it means to be a part of the human species. If computers can teach as well or better than real teachers, and replace them by the droves, tremendous amounts of money can be saved, right? Have you been thorugh a self-checkout at Walmart or Home Depot? Works good, right? You scan your stuff, stick your money in a slot, and there is an assistant standing by and watching to make sure you don't cheat. Will that concept be the future of American schooling and the human species? I can tell you that there is a clear joy that arises in a classroom when the adults teach and the children are empowered to create.


  1. Doug, I think that if technology is being applied in order to diminish the personal contact between teacher and student, it's clearly being misapplied. Technology elements in classrooms are tools like any other. They can be used to enhance learning and can of course be used to inadequately replace tried-and-true "old fashioned" techniques. But don't blame the technology, blame the school or teacher for being lazy, shortsighted or for sucumbing to the pressure of equally shortsighted parents.

    That being said, I love your message of using woodworking and building as the medium through which a huge variety of lessons can be taught.

    We had our elementary school principal tell us, when explaining why computer use is critical to the 1st grade curriculum, explain that "We're developing 21st century learners. We're not going to waste time on, I don't know, basket weaving!" I thought to myself, "You have no idea, do you? Basket weaving is SO much more useful to a 1st grader than learning how to click and type and Google." We asked what alternatives we had for our daughter to not be on the computer an hour a week. The principal said, "Um, I don't know. Nobody's ever requested LESS computer time..."

    Again, the technology is not to blame. It's the zealous over-application of it, thinking that more is always better. Especially when the advancing technology means less time and money and focus on the reall tried-and-true approaches like actually building something tangible.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. I agree that technology is not to blame, but its mistaken application. After all, "a poor craftsman blames his tools," and computers are just tools. Sadly, parents assume that computers are the future, when computers and programs are intended to make things easier and easier for all... not the thing that leads to a skilled learning profession. If technolgy becomes so blamed easy, we'll never need technical assistance, will we?

    So the future is not in the tool, but in having the vision and creativity to make use of it. And basket making as a deep reflection of thousands of years of human culture would probably be more uniquely valuable than knowing how to produce a power point presentation or a word document, unless either of those have purposeful content derived from something equivalent to basket making.