Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Personalized instruction...

This morning, the first second and third grade students at the Clear Spring School worked on a totem pole as part of their studies of American Indians. I found a wooden pallet at roadside, removed the top planks, and planed the 4 x 4 in. parts of the base to get stock for each to make their own totem animal. They have done preparatory work in class, drawing totem animals and looking at examples of totem poles on-line and in books. After sawing and adding parts to their blocks, each student's work will be joined with dowels to create the totem pole. We've done this project in the past, so even though it sounds complex, I know it can be managed in small groups, just a few students at a time.

One of the distinct advantages of Finnish educational model is a remnant from educational sloyd... personalized or individualized instruction. One-on-one instruction in which a student receives the full attention of the teacher is a powerful tool for engagement in learning. It is very much like what happens when parents or grandparents and children interact in the wood shop.

American education is based on a classroom model, but even though students are arranged in classes in Educational Sloyd, the objective of that arrangement is still personalized instruction. So in Finland schools, at Clear Spring School, children are broken into smaller groups, down to a single child to make certain important lessons are learned in the most effective manner.

One-on-one is how a parent or grandparent will teach a child, as was always the case from the dawn of man. And one of the foolish things we've done as a society is to isolate the old from the young, putting seniors in front of televisions where they relax and withdraw instead of sharing in the transmission of human culture. JD discovered in making friendship boxes with his grandchildren that it was an immensely rewarding experience that should not be kept to himself.

I have always felt that woodworkers are among a select group of human beings who may see a more direct relationship between the hands and learning than may be the case with those educators having grown up in purely academic environments. It is therefore our responsibility to not keep things to ourselves.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Doug, you and I have been talking a bit about this over the past few days outside the blog. I would love to hear from your readers as to how they think this kind of process might be formalized and promoted. Something akin to the SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) who provide consultation for small business startups? Regional workshops where retirees can learn about sharing their skills with their grandchildren and others of similar age in the community? What ideas might your readers have?

  2. JD, the most natural way to do what you are suggesting is through the woodworking clubs. AAW chapters are already interested, and also groups like the Northeast Woodworkers Association. My time with clubs tells me that many members are grandfathers who are already interested in woodworking with their kids.

    I think your idea of SCORE as a model is a good one. I would also like to hear from other readers. There might also be a way to tie in to schools. The woodworking bus idea comes to mind.

  3. Ah, good suggestion. Guess I need to find out if there is a local group here. I think there is...

  4. Doug, maybe you could encourage your readers to respond to my plea. So far, not much response.

    Thsnks, my friend....

  5. Anonymous5:24 AM

    JD, SCORE and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, along with a few other programs, already do some of this. But I suspect the best work is being done in a sort of ad-hoc way all over the country.