Tuesday, April 30, 2013

free day...

My class load is particularly light this week, with the 7th through 12th grades involved in travel school. The idea of travel school is to anchor what the kids have learned in the classroom to real world activities. It is also a bonding time for the students... a time in which great memories are cast in stone as anchor points in their lives. They are called upon through travel to show great respect for others and themselves and to act in ways that show responsibility and exceptional care.

As one who has traveled with our kids in the past, I can describe the routine and that our students are greeted warmly in the world because the act with manners that others find exceptional. And teachers are always proud of their interests in what they do, and in their behavior as they come face to face with the broader world. At this point, it is surprising or not surprising to me the number of former Clear Spring School students who live in other countries and on other continents. The most amazing thing is that CSS students can do this, even though we are a poor school, in a very small community like Eureka Springs. Even a poor school can offer rich experiences to  kids.

In fact, the best schooling doesn't take a lot of money, and size matters in a way that would surprise many. The size of a school often works against the quality of education, for as schools and classes grow in size, artificialising management and measurement tools must be put in place that take away from the teacher's engagement in  fulfilling the learning needs of individual kids. These measurement and management tools form a barrier of abstraction between teacher and child.

Today in the CSS woodshop, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students were to have a "free day" or "creative day" in which they'd get to test themselves by making what they want. Creative day can be a challenge for me, as each student will have his or her own demands for specific materials. It is always a challenge for some to put into words exactly what they want. I ask for them to describe what they need in thickness, length, and width, and they show me with their hands as I ask more specific questions. "How many inches is that?"  I ask, so I can get them to understand the relationship between size,  measuring, and math. The students reward me for my efforts by showing me things that I never would have dreamed on my own. And regardless of what they've made, they are extremely proud of the work they have seen come from imagination to reality in their own hands.

Fortunately, for me, their teacher had another idea in mind. They are planning their spring camping trip and needed stands to hold their patrol group flags. Despite not getting to do exactly what they wanted, the kids rose to the occasion, did good work and had great fun at the same time. The flag stands are made from 12 inch wide 5/4 birch recycled from a building project. The flags are held erect by 1 1/2 in. pvc pipes fitted into holes drilled with a circle cutter at the center of the base. the project involved finding center, marking the corners at 45 degrees for sawing, drilling the hole, hand planing and sanding edges and then pounding the plastic pipe into place. Plenty to keep kids excited. Creative day will come next week instead.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 29, 2013

dumb by design?

I saw a friend at lunch time who is a believer in conspiracy theories, and he told me that American education was purposely designed to keep students from knowing or growing to their full potential. By making kids read on schedule, they make them resist reading. By warehousing them in large classes they can be assured that their individual needs are not met. By separating the education of the hand from that of the mind, they leave some students feeling stupid and the rest helpless. By making schools as boring as can be imagined, students are conditioned to do little thinking for themselves. They are made to feel helpless,  depressed and ripe for manipulation.

I don't personally subscribe to any conspiracy theories as to why American education so badly misses the mark. My own suspicion is that folks are simply out of touch. When the education of the mind is separated from that of the hand for so long, it is a real challenge to put things back together. When students have adequate encouragement for their success in their own homes, they seem more likely to survive the educational experience with a strong sense of self intact. But when kids are undermined in home and community, by economic poverty or  poverty of support, they have less resilience to contend with the stupidity of modern education. That, I think, is why some students survive it better than others, but all would do better with hands-on learning.

Today the CSS high school students left for a week long study period in Kansas. My fourth, fifth and sixth grade students worked on their shields and other objects of their own invention. When kids have the hands-on opportunity to create things from their own imagination, with real tools and real materials, there is no dearth of real learning.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

two things about the hands...

Two quick things about the hands: The first is that as Frank Wilson describes in his book, The Hand, the hands and brain co-evolved as a learning system. More brain real estate is dedicated to the sensing and operation of the hands than to any other organ. As just one small example, the intraparietal sulcus is a small fold in the cerebral cortex responsible for both finger sensing and the capacity to do math. And so, as described by Maria Montessori, the hands are the path to the mind. And if a teacher is smart, he or she will ask children to count on fingers rather than making them feel self-conscious about the need to do so.

A second thing about the hands is that they serve as one of humanity's most important symbols of self. When we talk of our feelings and emotions, we describe them with the language of the hands. Feeling. Being touched. Our own English word for ourselves, man or woman comes from the Latin word for the hand, manus. There are stage hands, ranch hands, all-hands-on-deck hands, and so when we speak of human beings being actively present and fully engaged, we say hands-on, even when the whole body, the whole boy, the whole child is completely engaged and not just the hands.

And of course, when I say "two things about the hands" I'm lying. There are so many other things to tell about the hands, for the hands touch every facet of human culture except too much of American public education, and the minds of leaders who tend to be driven more in some cases by ideological fantasies, than by the actual practicalities of life. With the exception being for those who are completely out of touch the hands are our most important organs, hands down. Besides their sensory capacity in helping us to more clearly interpret all of life, all human invention and creativity rests on the foundation provided by the hands.

I am pleased to be home from the Thea Art Show in Little Rock. I had a great time until the heavy rain commenced. But we are home safe, the boxes that got touched with splattered rain were carefully dried (by hand).

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thea Art Show

My face  is in a local exhibit by artist John Rankine. Scary, right? (at left) For this exhibit, each artist in Eureka Springs was to make a face, showing how seriously we take art. I practiced this look for about 2 seconds before the shutter snapped. Please don't imagine how I could look with more practice.

Today I'll be packing boxes to take to Little Rock, Arkansas for the Thea Art Show which is held as a fund raiser to put more art in Arkansas schools. I've mentioned Thea before. You can just barely have the arts without hands, and if you just barely begin to understand the relationship between the hands and learning, you know that the strategic engagement of the hands provides a clear rationale for the arts. Instead of the arts, we've chosen to make schooling boring and efficient, in a misguided effort to make it straight lined and precise... as though the shortest distance between two points was actually a straight line.

Those who understand art as it applies to our own motivation and sense of self, know the importance of wandering as the most direct course to a happy destination.

On another subject, the company that makes small hinges that I use in many of my boxes has announced a solar energy project that will generate 95% of their electric power needs on-site. Craft, Inc. in South Attleboro, Massachusetts recently installed a rubber roof over its manufacturing facility and is currently installing 1,200 solar panels. A report by the Edison Electric Institute, Disruptive Challenges, informs public utilities that they need to be quaking in their boots over the disruptive influence of alternate forms of energy production. They are deathly afraid that solar panels will destroy their business model and chip away at their investor base. One concern is that just as so many have abandoned their copper land lines in favor of cell phones, thus reducing the profit margins traditionally enjoyed by AT&T and other land line providers, home owners and manufacturers will do the same thing... abandon the grid for more cost effective and reliable on-site power generation.

You can see the dilemma for SWEPCO and other electric power utilities in the south. They have to either run roughshod on our hills, destroying our way of life, and the value of our homes and properties in order to get cheap power flowing into the upper midwest, or face the dire consequence of our taking matters into our own hands. If a small manufacturing plant in cloudy Massachusetts can generate 95% of its own power, so can we. This article describes the danger Utility companies face: Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities.

And I am further reminded of my friend Bill Coperthwaite. In the early 1970's he acquired a tidal pool on the coast of Maine thinking it would provide all the free hydro-electric power anyone in their right mind could ever need. As he worked on his land, he discovered that he truly had all the power he would every actually need in his mind, in his own strong back and in his hands. So he's put the tidal pool in wilderness preservation trust.

One more thing to share from yesterday's wood week activity at the Clear Spring Pre-school during which kids used saws, hammers and hand planes to work on wood. One of the kids said, "I want to tell my mom about THIS when I get home!" In other words, give kids something interesting to talk about that engages their interests, and parents won't need levers to pry out of kids mouths what they did each day. And kids will be more excited to go back the next day, too.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

wood week...

Happy wood week! If you are like me, every week is wood week, but for some it comes as a special celebration. Today, my apprentice and I went to the Clear Spring Pre-School and Kindergarten for their "Wood Week". It was so much fun for all of us that this celebration of wood needs to become an annual event. I had originally planned to take my middle school class to help, and that would have been great fun, but their class schedule conflicted with nap time.

So Greg and I took work benches, planes, saws and hammers and each child got to saw, hammer and plane to their heart's delight. It was amazing to see how much attention they were able to apply, and even the youngest ones did well and worked safely. For some, this was their first time to use a hammer. For most, it was the first time to use a saw. For all, it was the first time to use a plane.

When I first thought of the project, I assumed that I would need to plan something for them to make. In case you are wondering, I can assure you that merely putting tools in kids hands for sawing, hammering and planing wood, is planning enough. Give them safety glasses for sawing and hammering. Use a vise to hold the wood so that their hands can be kept safe. After over an hour of work, our pre-school students wanted to begin gluing pieces they had sawn together to make sculpture, a thing they had learned earlier in wood week using various scraps saved from the CSS wood shop.

In my own shop, I continue to make small boxes.

It is such a delight to have a diversion from our community's attempt to stop the new power line from cutting through on its way, to unrevealed destinations. NOTHING is more refreshing than to work with budding wood workers. In an hour or less, you can build memories that will last more than a lifetime, when you consider yours and theirs. They and we will remember wood week for many years to come.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

little boxes...

You would expect me to be talking about little boxes. Four of my books have been written about box making. I am currently working on my spring production of boxes. I am working on my 5th book about box making. But today, my high school students are to begin learning to play Pete Seeger's song, Little Boxes, on their box guitars. I am grateful to our music teacher taking over at this point. Just to get the guitars tuned alike will be a challenge for them. Fortunately, we do have some students that already play guitar, and they'll be called upon to help the others tune up.

The students were shown this video by Walk off the Earth, and they loved it and want to perform it. My hope is that they'll get it together and be able to play sometime in May.

Today my first, second and third grade students will be finishing their covered wagons and horses. My 7th, 8th and 9th grade students did wood turning and some paper sloyd, just for fun. Tomorrow, in support of Wood Week activities at the Clear Spring Pre-School and kindergarten, I'l take saws, hammers and planes on site, and give a few quick lessons in working with wood.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Business card holders ready for sanding, then finish.
Life is a multi-disciplinary endeavor. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and there are folks poised to take things from us in writing, that have real impact. A mark with a pen can launch chainsaws and bulldozers cutting through real forests. Consciously divide the hand from the power of the mind, or the mind from the power of the hand, and you've set civilization on the path of self destruction.

Last week I gave a short talk to the Clear Spring High School students explaining to them how important it is to learn to read and fully digest non-fiction material, as it is through the use of words that lawyers can take from us all that we own and keep us from being able to insure the quality of our lives for generations to come.

The kids that read these days read fiction, and parents count themselves lucky at that. Some choose to read nothing longer than a tweet. Too few are getting deeply engaged in non-fiction materials that require any intellectual effort in their digestion. I guess the idea is for reading to be fun, and that reading is to be avoided if it requires effort, but it's in wading through real work, reading things that bore us, that the quality of our lives can be preserved.

What I am referring to is the current effort by SWEPCO to take away properties (including my own) to push a super highway of electric power through some of the most beautiful forested terrain in America. Last night, we made a pitch to the local city council and garnered a resolution against the project, and this week I hope to have a guest editorial in one of our local newspapers.

By reading engineering reports, I've discovered that the proposed line is not to serve our local populace as claimed, but is a kind of interstate highway for the distribution of electric power.

The highest voltage transmission system in Maine operates at 345,000 volts (345 kV), just like the one proposed here. Central Maine Power Company describes their 345 kV lines as the interstate highway system for electricity in Maine, a state with such abundant hydroelectric power that they export a great deal of it to Canada. What size line do they use for that? 345 kV. A new line, 345 kV suspended by poles taller than our oaks, is what they want to put in my back yard, with their right of way passing 75 feet from my deck.

I wanted to point out to my students that they may never die at the end of a sword, but may die a thousand deaths at the point of a pen. And their ability to read through disgusting, convoluted stuff will be a necessity, despite all that we've done to make reading fun. I hope they find themselves ready for the real work of it.

An editor called my own writing style "baroque." I told him that if its baroque, fix it. Sentences can always be cut in shorter lengths for those who are unprepared for the labor of more complex thoughts. But children need to learn to digest complexity, sort things out and defend themselves.

Today in the wood shop, I'm working on small products to fill an order,  to sell through galleries, and at the coming Thea Art Show in Little Rock next Saturday.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday in the CSS wood shop...

My 4th, 5th and 6th grade students have returned from their travels, found no diamonds, but did find large crystals and were able to use the tools they made in wood shop to do so. Today they'll be working on personal shields, and I'll help to attach straps and hand grips to the backs so they can be held. What is it about all these kids and their desires to be warriors? In this world courage is not a bad thing.

During the weekend, adult students of woodworking used the Clear Spring School wood shop for a class in making rustic chairs, led by Robert Norman. I dropped by at the close of class yesterday to see what they'd done. Each student was very pleased with their accomplishments. The class was organized and sponsored by the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

You can tell that they students had fun.

Yesterday I learned that one of my two box making classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking still has a few openings. Normally my class at Marc Adams School is full with a waiting list, so this year the decision was made to offer two  five day classes. If you are interested in box making, this would be a good time to sign up. The class with openings for you is from May 27 through May 31.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Pre-K puzzle for wood week at CSS
Today in the wood shop, I'm struggling to get caught up on my spring production of boxes and small products. I have inlaid lids for nearly a hundred boxes, and am getting some of the rest of the parts ready in order to be able to fill at least a small order for various things by the end of next week. Between teaching and writing, I've gotten behind and it is hard to catch up. I've been making products like these since the early 1980's so I know what needs to be done next.

In American education we present students with a broad horizon of learning, but do so within the walls of schools with little engagement with the real world. Should it be any surprise that students in time begin to lose interest? Think of it as skipping a stone across a small pond. If you throw it at the right angle, the stone may skip 5 or 6 times or more before landing on the other side or finally sinking in. In schooling we throw kids into classrooms, through lecture halls, hoping they will find reason to go deep, and yet without the depth resultant from hands-on learning, they bounce off. In my quote used at the beginning of Matthew Crawford's book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, I wrote:
In Schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.
--Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
In too many schools students are not required to plunge deep. The angle of incidence at which they are carelessly thrown prevents it as they skip along the surface of education, lose interest, become disengaged from what is offered in classroom, and in some cases become disruptive of the learning of others.

Again, I want to recommend Washor's and Mojkowski's book Leaving to Learn. They state:
"Traditional instruction and assessment cannot bring all students to competence, much less craftsmanship and mastery. To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school. All students need to leave school—frequently, regularly, and of course, temporarily—to stay in school and persist in their learning."
I'm curious, how many of us have done our best learning in schools? If your learning has been like mine, it might make you wonder why we would have schools in the first place.

Ideally, schools would reflect real life, first by bringing real life experiences into the classroom and secondly by pushing kids out into the real world to make deep connections between what they've learned and real life.

On Friday I was invited to present to the 7th through 12th grade students on my least favorite subject of late... the efforts of SWEPCO to put in a superhighway of electricity through either my land or land belonging to my neighbors. It would be about 48 miles of 345 kV power carried by towers 50 feet taller than our tallest oaks, and that could be upgraded to double its initial capacity. Bringing guest speakers into the classroom to engage the students in discussion of real world situations, and to encourage their own passions to become engaged in real life concerns is one good reason to have kids in schools. Instead, classrooms become educational silos where kids slouch bored as professorial one-sided delivery of learning is attempted and seldom fully accomplished.

There is an old saying, "Use it or lose it." And to that I will add, "Use it, or you may never fully understand it in the first place." Again, this has to do with the German terms for learning, wissenschaft, and kenntniss. Wissenschaft is knowledge you acquire through books or being told. Kenntniss is knowledge acquired from personal experience. One without the other is diminished, but when both are present, and children have had the opportunity to go deep in what they've learned, the sky is the limit on what they can accomplish.

This week is "Wood Week" at the Clear Spring Pre-school and Kindergarten. Wood Week allows the kids to learn the letter "W" (which both words start with) and do some study of the natural environment. On Wednesday, my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students will help me to deliver some practical woodworking activity to our pre-k and kindergarten kids. The puzzle set made of native Arkansas woods, shown in the photo above is a thing I made for kids to begin learning "W", their woods, and the diversity of our natural forest environment. There is one "W" wood in the set... Walnut.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

made in USA...

The April 22, 2013 cover story in Time Magazine, How Made in the USA is Making a Comeback, describes the resurgence of American manufacturing, once again centered on the introduction of new  technologies. This time the 3-D printer is at the center of things, making complex parts that cannot be made or quickly modified using previous casting techniques.
"Climbing out of the recession, the U.S. has seen its manufacturing growth outpace that of other advanced nations, with some 500,000 jobs created in the past three years. It marks the first time in more than a decade that the number of factory jobs has gone up instead of down. From ExOne’s 3-D manufacturing plant near Pittsburgh to Dow Chemical’s expanding ethylene and propylene production in Louisiana and Texas, which could create 35,000 jobs, American workers are busy making things that customers around the world want to buy — and defying the narrative of the nation’s supposedly inevitable manufacturing decline."
On the Fine Woodworking Website, an article suggests, The Future of Woodworking is Looking Good. This article shows a few things made by kids and suggests that others send in photos of what their children have done with wood. We have hopes that a national movement will emerge, and that all our children will grow in character, intellect and moral purpose as a result. In any case, we would benefit as a nation to once again think of ourselves as smart makers of beautiful things.

So what can you do? We know that what we do is more important than what we know, so it is not enough to simply read Time Magazine each month and keep up on trends. If you do woodworking with your kids, share photos of what they've made with the Fine Woodworking site, and join in the discussion of why it is important to engage your children in making beautiful and useful things.

On the same subject, this month's Wooden Boat Magazine, the regular insert supplement, Getting Started in Boats, tells how 6 people got their starts in boats. I wish other magazines, including Fine Woodworking, could take as aggressive an interest in engaging new generations in hands-on learning as does Wooden Boat. About 5 years ago I had asked Fine Woodworking to do a regular magazine supplement engaging new learners in woodworking as a way to build readership, engagement in woodworking and to extend love of woodworking into new generations. They chose not to because they were unable to find advertisers for it. Wooden Boat on the other hand, offers the supplement, "Getting Started in Boats," with no outside sponsors, simply because the job of building a new generation of wooden boat enthusiasts just needed to get done.

Each and every issue of Wooden Boat unabashedly supports greater engagement in hands-on learning in its practical, intellectual and moral dimensions. In fact, they offer so many examples of how parents and communities can use boats to get kids involved in learning hands-on that I often overlook special programs like the 6 hour canoe program shown in the photo above until later in the month. In this wonderful program, kids build wooden canoes in 6 hours. Then those canoes become the foundation for environmental education as kids then use the boats in exploring their river, the Navesink.

Another program mentioned in the same issue is the Bayfront Maritime Center in Erie, PA. They say,
"The focus at BMC is to empower kids with a positive sense of future and a personal toolbox full of skills, like critical think, effective communication, teamwork, and perseverance, that they need to successfully navigate through the rough passages most of them will face on a daily basis. We are not trying to crank out boatbuilders, or yachtsmen and yachtswomen. We use boatbuilding, sailing, rowing and paddling, and navigation, to teach the practical application of science, technology, engineering, and math, in nontraditional classrooms. It works because these are the things the staff here are passionate about. That passion cannot be faked; it's real, and the kids sense that."
If each and every woodworking publication were to take such an assertive role in promoting hands-on learning, we would have woodworking education returning to schools in no time. And often, doing the right thing pays off in the long run. The ever growing collection, "Getting Started in Boats" has become a valuable product for the publishers of Wooden Boat Magazine.

Tonight is the Clear Spring School Spring Fling, our annual fund raising art and services auction that raises money to help the school meet expenses at the end of the school year. It is a fun event, with excellent food, and the opportunity to purchase works created by local artists. As you may know, Eureka Springs is one of our nation's premier arts destinations, so many of our local artists are nationally known.
The Annual Clear Spring Fling Auction hosted by Clear Spring School (PrePrimary-12) is to be held at the Keels Creek Winery (behind the tasting room and art gallery on Saturday, April 20, 2013 starting at 5:30 PM.
Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 19, 2013

fast enough?

Jack, (not his real name) was upset at Clear Spring School last week and told his teacher that the other kids kept beating him in the race. Sometimes life is not fair. But being smaller of size can mean less speed on the ground. Not all muscles (and not all children) mature at the same rate, and the variability in developmental rates whether in musculature or mind lead some children to compete favorably or unfavorably in one area or another in comparison with their peers. Age can also play a large part in this.

The tragic thing is that kid learn wrongly that they are either good or not good in various things, like reading or math, or athletics when if they were able to withhold judgment of themselves until a later date, might actually discover they are actually good in basketball.

Can you see how this works or how you might apply the lessons learned from this to your own life?

I've been trying to explain to my apprentice that it is harder for a mature man to escape the inevitable criticism of self than for a child to simply make, fix, create and have fun. The suspension of self-criticism as one works with wood, is essential to the process of growth. Years ago, I took Crescent Dragonwagon's first class in "fearless writing." She said, "when writing, leave the editor out of the room. You cannot drive with your foot on both the gas pedal and brake."

So please, suspend criticism of your own work. Do not worry how fast your competitors run, or how fast or well your own work is accomplished. In time, and with practice it will grow in both quality and efficiency, but not as a result of becoming overly critical of your own work.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday in the wood shop...

I am working on my usual spring production of small boxes, getting a rather late start. Three and 4 days ago I made inlay. On Tuesday I began setting the inlay into box lids. Today, I'll spend some time gluing inlay in place, and begin inlaying lids for smaller boxes. There is an order in things that brings a level of psychological comfort that can prepare one for other things.

We will have a community wide meeting tonight at the city auditorium to mobilize citizenry against the Swepco line expansion, and the theft of our properties.

On the other hand, it is such a pleasure to work in a small wood shop on a rainy day in Arkansas, and while I might have made an OK lawyer if I had pursued that path, there is great satisfaction in working with my hands as well as my mind. There are those who distinguish between cognitive and non-cognitive skills. In other words, there are fools in positions of power and authority who would blindly destroy what others hold dear.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

in the thick of it...

I've been in the thick of things. As I've told readers in earlier posts, Swepco, a wholesale and retail supplier of electricity informed us on April Fools Day, 2013 that they've planned an alternate 690 kV line for electric distribution to scissor our land into two parts with a 150 foot wide clear cut that would remove the trees from within 75 feet of our deck. I've been reading through legal documents on the Arkansas Public Service Commission website that were filed by attorneys and engineers working on the project. We have less than 30 days to raise objections to the plan, and those objections can only be filed through an attorney. Without having either deep pockets or friends with whom to gather as a political force, we would be powerless. And many experts have told us that our own cause, that of protecting the natural beauty and the quality of our own lives is without hope.

All this legal stuff makes me so grateful for my own life. Years ago, my friend Jorgy had told me, " I don't know why you would study to be a lawyer, when your brains are so clearly in your hands." And that statement was the dime upon which my life turned. I began to understand the joy that I found in my own creativity. In time, I began to better understand the relationship between the hands and brain in learning. Ultimately, I began to understand that I was not special or unique. The hand/brain relationship was a thing we all share. We learn best, most enthusiastically, and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on. And my own life is so rich and full because I had taken a good friend's advice. On the other hand, I am discovering too, that I could have made a good lawyer, if I had cases like this one, of the heart, to work on where corporate interests were attempting to destroy natural woodlands and mess with people's lives and property.
Coming Saturday, April 20, 2013 .....The Annual Clear Spring Fling Auction is a Live and Silent Auction. The event features Local, National, and Internatonal Artists. We are featuring 'Local Artists from the Past' such as Elsie Freund! The work will include original paintings, multi-media art, hand-crafted furniture, giclee` prints, jewelry and much more. Additional items to bid on will showcase Getaway and Bed & Breakfast Packages. Bidding continues with gift certificates for Restaurants, Personal Training and many other great services. There is always something special for everyone to bid on to take home! Come on out for an enjoyable exciting evening while savoring our professionally created hors d'oeuvres and wine provided by Keels Creek! Keels Creek Winery is proud to be debuting their first single grape estate wine!

The Annual Clear Spring Fling Auction hosted by Clear Spring School (PrePrimary-12) is to be held at the Keels Creek Winery (behind the tasting room and art gallery on Saturday, April 20, 2013 starting at 5:30 PM.
I will have two items for sale in this year's fund raising event. Offered in silent auction, will be one of the boxes created in the process of writing my current book. In live auction will be a bench featured in my book Rustic Furniture Basics. All proceeds will go to the Clear Spring School where engagement of the hands is a primary focus in the education of our kids.

What are folks in Sweden reading today? Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I learned yesterday that local Eureka Springs and county officials met with lawyers representing Swepco Power Company during October and November 2012 to discuss the Swepco power line expansion that would bisect my own property from one end to the other with a 150 ft. wide clearcut, maintained in perpetuity though the application of toxic herbicides.  This expansion, if approved in a hearing less than two weeks away would pass within 75 feet of our home. In other words, city and county officials have been participants in a conspiracy to to keep residents and landowners in the dark until the last minute, thus depriving us of our rights to act in a timely and effective fashion in our own behalf. This is not a situation any of us will take sitting down.

Today in the woodshop, I'll be making boxes, and there's no better way to become centered for a good fight than by the strategic engagement of the hands. There is little difference between making something of useful beauty and sharpening swords when it comes to being prepared for battle, for this Swepco thing will be a battle of words and ideas, and our side is the one that holds the greatest passion. Even though they've tried to make us powerless, we are not.

A couple days ago, I wrote about Place... and the three commonly squandered educational resources that a pedagogy of place puts us in touch with, and I want to return to just where I left off for further explanation. The situation with Swepco is directly to the point.
Third, we squander the educational value of folks who live in our diverse communities all across this vast nation. We ignore their skills and potential contributions thus failing to utilize them in the education of our children. That is a particularly tragic loss because both students and mentors would have received huge benefits from a learning partnership.
There is a very clear danger in the empowerment of folks that would happen in small communities like my own if common folk, their wisdom, their passions, and their expertise were brought into American education. When their value as educators is acknowledged and their skills are recognized as having educational value, a sense of empowerment would arise in them as a clear threat to those who have their own plans of domination and external control. Just as many of us in my own community are ready to rise up against injustice, there is a danger that others having discovered their own value to the education of their own youth, would also be empowered to act for the greater good.

Washor and Mojkowki, in their book Leaving to Learn, spell out the Big Picture with regard to how to engage community resources on behalf of the education of kids. They do it through internships, and directly engaging kids in off campus real learning opportunities, stretching student minds beyond the school walls. When children and adults are put into mentoring relationships, both arise at the same time and there is danger in that. If you want corporations like Swepco to run roughshod over our communities and our rights, by all means, keep education just as it is. On the other hand,

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 15, 2013

road trip...

Today, the 4th 5th and 6th grade students at the Clear Spring School left on their spring road trip. They loaded into cars driven by parent volunteers and are headed for Hot Springs and later to the Crater of Diamonds State Park where they will use tools made in wood shop as they attempt to strike it rich in the only public diamond mine in the world... A state park were you can dig at your own risk and actually find real diamonds. While learning about the world, they also learn a great deal about themselves.

Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski, in their new book Leaving to Learn, How Out of School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates, discuss the value of road trips to engage student learning and suggest the website, www.Roadtripnation.com as a source for planning information. The great roadtrip has been a part of Clear Spring School tradition for many years, but I was not familiar with that site. I am finding Elliot's and Charlie's new book to be a simple presentation of much needed reality in education, addressing what it takes to keep children interested in learning. Page by page, it offers a commonsense approach to a renewal in American education. It is a short book so  I plan to devour it thoroughly and then pass it along to other teachers at the Clear Spring School.

Our Clear Spring School kids begin their travel in 4th grade, and by the time they reach high school like the kids shown in the website, are veteran explorers with many states and adventures behind them. At any age, travel is one of the great ways to get kids out from behind desks and to allow them to learn from real life. At school today, my high school students are finishing the last of our box guitars and taking them home to begin practice.

Today in the woodshop, I've almost finished making inlay for boxes. I have a new simple technique in which I can make walnut banded and linden banded assembled veneers in the same gluing operation.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


The general assumption is that all good things come from somewhere else, and as I was talking with a friend last night, he mentioned that folks out in the big world may not necessarily think much of my home state of Arkansas. We have no Ivy League school. Many folks here are relatively uneducated in comparison to folks in some places. The value of knowledge is clearly stratified and measured in the culture at large and in some modes of thought, Arkansas might not measure up. Some knowledge is presumed to offer a higher paycheck and greater status than the kind of commonsense know-how that is held and dispersed by common folk.

I want to list the most squandered resources in American education. First is the interest and natural learning inclinations of each child. We make schools uninteresting by ignoring the child's natural inclination to learn things that are interesting to them.

Secondly, we ignore the educational value of the places in which our schools exist. We try to impose a uniformity in design and curriculum that is completely ignorant of place. Children are not taught to engage in their own environments as stewards and participants in natural life and community. When you realize how engaging place and community can become, you begin to realize how this resources is squandered. We do that by putting kids behind desks in classrooms in which they are actually deprived of engagement in real life.

Third, we squander the educational value of folks who live in our diverse communities all across this vast nation. We ignore their skills and potential contributions thus failing to utilize them in the education of our children. That is a particularly tragic loss because both students and mentors would have received huge benefits from a learning partnership.

This squandering of educational resources is a great way to insure that our children are disengaged from learning and that the wisdom of common folk is never put forth into the hands of coming generations except by accident. Fortunately a great number of students are put off by standard American education, drop out and get out into their communities to learn from these three neglected and squandered resources.

How can I dare say that dropping out of high school or college can be a good thing? While it may not be good for most students to drop out of school, it seems that some who have, have offered great benefits to the rest of us. My friends Elliot Washor and Charlie Mojkowski begin their new book, Leaving to Learn, How Out of School Learning Increased Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates, with a long list of successful folks (including Bill Gates) who did drop out from school, and thence bestowed the benefits of their own outside-the-classroom learning on our economy and culture. The list includes a wide range of contributors, who despite the American system of squandering educational resources, plugged into what was most natural for them and successfully followed their own interests which led them outside conventional education.

One dropout connected to my own family history was Lovell Lawrence, Jr. (Bunny), a friend of my dad's who was founder of RMI Reaction Motors, Inc. and later became the head of Chrysler Engineering and took charge of the successful development of the lunar lander. He dropped out of school because there were no teachers capable of keeping up with his own interests. His portable rocket launch stand is enshrined in the Smithsonian.

To make things perfectly clear, Washor and Mojkowski are no advocates of children dropping out of school. Their book points to how children actually learn and how they learn best and that we might actually restructure schooling to make use of available resources. If schools made best use of available resources, children, kept captivated by learning, would not drop out and our communities would be enriched as a result.

Of course the most squandered of available resources when it comes to learning is our hands. When those who decided that the hands were not the most essential tool in learning arrived at that point, began disparaging the the value of skilled hands, and separated the hand and mind in their thoughts of themselves, they launched our nation on this course of educational stupidity. We learn best, most thoroughly and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on.

Yesterday I had about 30 visitors from the Oakland Art Museum. As you can see in the photo above, I put out a few boxes to sell to my guests. Sadly, I neglected to get a photo of them while they were here. Who knew such a long bus could make it all the way up our long drive? What I most hope my guests carried away from their visit was a new understanding about how kids learn, and how, by engaging our hands in learning, and regardless of age, we can insure the success of economy and culture. There are very special things to become acquainted with in Arkansas. One visitor told me, that Eureka Springs was like Carmel, but without the sea. I can assure you that if you were to visit, you would find it's even better than that. Come to Eureka Springs and let us surprise you.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Herman Finkbeiner passed away on April 1, and he will be missed in the woodworking community. He was one of the founders of the Northeastern Woodworkers Association and served as the first president and executive secretary for a group that went from an original eight members to approximately 1000 members today. I tip my hat to a fine man at his passing. It is certainly not enough to simply say that he will be missed.

I was invited to have lunch with Herman (Herm) at the Woodworker's Showcase in 2008 (or was it 2007 or 6?) and we'd corresponded since. He was deeply concerned that children in schools were not getting the kinds of experiences that woodworking can offer to build character and intellect and he wanted to brainstorm with me what his club could do to turn the tide. He was not one to ask idle questions. In response to my concept "Wisdom of the Hands." He asked, "have you heard the German term, "fingerspitzengefühl"? I had not, but his question launched my investigation into the meaning of the term.

 I'm awaiting the arrival of a group of visiting arts enthusiasts from the Oakland Art Museum, and so will not write much about fingerspitzengefühl except to link to an earlier post. Reading Herman's obituary, you will notice that he knew the meaning of fingerspitzengefühl from first hand experience. German philosophers distinguished between Wissenschaft and Kenntniss, two forms of knowledge. The first is that of second hand experience such as what might come from reading a book. The second, kenntnis, comes from actually having done something yourself. When both are assembled on the stage of learning, profound intuitive insights are available.

For example, working at GE for 35 years, Finkbeiner wrote over 20 scientific research papers and was granted 30 patents. As a human being, he was involved in a wide variety of community pursuits in behalf of the public good. In the midst of it all that, Herman became a competent and enthusiastic participant in the woodworking art.

There is a greatness of purpose that comes with fingerspitzengefühl, and one can look back at Herman Finkbeiner's life to see how it works to have both sides of human knowledge, both wissenschaft and kenntnis at one's fingertips... a thing few schools bother to teach.

 I was sent a link to photos from my box making class last weekend. Go Here!

 Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pedagogy of place...

The term pedagogy of place, mentioned in the video embedded in yesterday's post has particular significance for the future of education. As educators on the national level try to make every school the same, and force the imposition of standards, the standards themselves are a liability for the future of our nation and culture.

Many readers may recall that Sloyd was not, despite its detractors, a monolith of models, in that it was clearly stated again and again, that learning was to start with the interests of the child and exercised in support his or her relationship to family and community. Educators throughout the world were encouraged to adapt model series to meet the interests of the children and unique communities in which Sloyd was taught.

A pedagogy of place would lead each school in directions that best fit the children in their natural and cultural environments. A community like my own, which is full of artists would of necessity if it were true to itself and its place in human culture adopt a curriculum in which arts were at the center of education. A farming community (did you see the earlier post on farm school?) would use farming as the tool to help children become deeply engaged in learning. A school in a community with a deep tradition in fishing, and the boat building arts would make use of those arts.

The most obvious thing about modern public education is that we squander our most important available resources: The interests of the child, and the mentors available in their communities.  We have one of the most expensive and ineffective systems of public education in the world. By constructing artificial learning environments that actually isolate and disengage children from real life, we leave them disinterested and disengaged at the altar of learning. But that can be fixed. Engage children in doing real things.

Today I have an all day board meeting with the Clear Spring School, and then tomorrow members of the Oakland Art Museum will arrive for a shop tour. Some of my finished tea boxes are shown in the photo above.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a quiet day...

Today in the wood shop, I'll be putting finish on tea boxes and making dividers. I have a traveling group from the Oakland Art Museum coming on Saturday, an all day Clear Spring School board meeting on Friday, a few errands to run today, so I have to take advantage of the opportunity this day presents to take time in the shop.

When we discover something that centers us, fulfills our aspirations and sense of self, we have to carve out a time for it and defend it in order to lay continuing claim to our sense of centered self. Without the opportunity to feel our own creative energies and to build inner strength through their exercise, we are diminished and have little reserve for staying centered through difficult times which it seems are always just around the corner.

Here in our local community, a large power company has plans to put in a major new 345KV line. One alternate route would pass within 175 feet of my home, taking a 150 foot wide swath of our carefully protected woodlands as it would traverse from one end of our 11 acres to the other. And just as I care for this small acreage, I have friends who also care for theirs. There is no good route.

I've been immersed in emails circulating at the center of a local storm. Swepco in their Environmental impact statement notes two alternatives... what they claim to be the disastrous do nothing approach, and that of inflicting disaster on us. In the meantime, they ignore conservation, and they ignore alternative localized sources for meeting area wide energy needs. For instance, one good friend has a grid tied solar system that meets all of her needs and feeds excess energy back into the system that the utility company refuses to compensate her for. Swepco wants to run the new 345KV line across her 137 acres, from one end to the other. Sadly, this is all about selling power, not building a more resilient power grid. And where there are corporate profits to be seen, individual rights are there to be trampled on. The following video is from a Montessori School in Ohio. Note the phrase used, "pedagogy of place."

Pedagogy of place reminds us that there is great value to be found in where we are if we open ourselves to the investigation of it.

Tonight there is a public meeting of concerned parties. I've been to these kinds of things before. Some will be angry, but we actually get the most done when we are centered. And getting centered is what happens in wood shop. Making things from wood can actually offer time in contemplation and access to deeper self. Creating is aligning oneself with the creative energies and capacities of the universe.

The photo above is of my apprentice Greg, helping a second grade student assemble a wagon in yesterday's class. We have a responsibility to help children align themselves with their own creative spirits. Neglect that and we will leave them with diminished capacity to deal with those things in life that throw us off center.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

by the numbers...

According to this week's Time magazine, ADHD diagnoses have increased 41% in the last decade. Either ADHD has become a more popular diagnosis, or what we are doing in schools is having a  profound effect. A friend was called in to talk with her son's first grade teacher because he kept falling out of his chair. And of course, the problem from the teacher's perspective is seen in the child, rather than in the chair. If teachers were to read Comenius' observations about how children learn, made in the 17th century, they would notice that children are little changed, but how we expect them to perform in schools has changed significantly... to the point that hundreds of thousands of boys and some girls must be prescribed medications to allow them to cope with education.

Can it be that if boys and girls were given learning opportunities that meant something to them, we would find them settled in their activities and alert to the lessons we offer them?

Yesterday I started two 5th grade boys at work on the lathe, turning spikes to install on the wooden shields they've begun making and decorating with their own coats of arms. The project was designed to get them to think of themselves symbolically, and to create representations of their varied interests, in addition to learning the skills to do so. When it came to standing at the lathe and carefully turning spikes, they insisted they could do it all day if I would allow them to. Engagement in crafts has the added benefit of engaging children's attention and training their attention. which can be applied to other learning opportunities.

This article, Is Immaturity Mistaken for ADHD?, points out that younger children in a class are more likely to receive the diagnosis than older children in the same class. How many children are medicated due to the immaturity of our system of education?

Woodworking can be a means to deeply engage kids in learning. ADHD? Perhaps children should be put to work attempting to do real things that engage deep interest before we decide drugs are essential to their learning.

Today in the wood shop, I'm attaching lid supports to hinged boxes and beginning preparation for a visit from members of the Oakland Art Museum.They'll be here on Saturday.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 08, 2013

sfwg and home...

I had a great second day of class with the South Florida Woodworking Guild, and then caught an afternoon flight to Dallas and was home at midnight. It made for a long day, and after today's classes with Clear Spring School kids I'm worn out. I don't know how I could  find a finer group of children to teach. They are so excited about what they are learning. I could hardly get the morning classes to end. They would work right through lunch if I would allow it. And the kids really do seem to have a great sense of appreciation for the opportunity wood shop provides.

This morning the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students began making shields, an idea proposed by Hawk. When I told him a shield would be something he could make at home, he insisted that it should be done at school so that he could share the experience with friends. But once he had gotten started, he insisted that he get to take his home to work on. Once he'd gotten started, how could he stop?

Have you not had that experience yourself?

I flew home last night next to a young man who is doing medical research on aging and we fell into an easy and stimulating conversation abut the hands. It was a pleasure to see such open minded enthusiasm. I was reminded by our conversations that the hands actually direct the formation of neural pathways essential to staying young in both body and mind. This .pdf describes a program of pen making with the elderly that has had profound effects, easing the burden of alzheimer's.

I am in a rather unique position. I was able to take a relatively early interest in my own hands and how they function in relation to thought, and because of that I offer hypotheses that make sense to me. If we look from the brain to the hands we might get one view, but if we look from the hands to the brain we see other things. The use of the body, and particularly new, and refined uses of the body, particularly involving the hands, furthers the development of new neural pathways and connections in the brain. Research shows a refinement of those natural neural networks as skill and expertise are achieved. My suspicion is that even when the elderly are pushed toward some form of steady refinement in hand skills, there are realignment of neural networks, and lines of thought potentials within the brain that are essential to mental health as we age. Learning to do new things with the body drives a realignment of connections and pathways, that may actually forestall the aging process.

This is not a new subject in the blog. I write about the same things over and over again, each time finding new connections. On the same subject more or less, readers will find this interesting: On the other hand. Can changing the pencil from the right to the left hand actually reconnect access to information inaccessible moments before? Susan Goldin Meadow in her research tells that shaking our hands in the air can help to shake up and stimulate our processes of thought. Her research shows that gesture can be used to not only better understand what we are trying to say, but how we actually feel and think, giving a viewer unexpected access to the processes of a person's thoughts that even that person may not be aware of him or her self.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

sfwg day one...

Today at my class with the South Florida Woodworking Guild, we began several boxes, made with three kinds of joints, and tomorrow we will make lids and bases, install hinges, and do some additional fun stuff.

I want to remind readers to go to Cuban Hat and vote for Richard Burman's video documentary entry Maker Moments that concerns the relationship between hands, materials and making. We need to find means to get this vital information out into the world. Richard's documentaries can help.

The photos above and at left are of boxes from today's class and of students awaiting veneered panels being glued in a vacuum press.

In a Make blog post, my friend Dale Dougherty asks how long it will take for household use of 3D printers to reach the one million threshold. He describes where the printers are now in utility and household interest and then leads readers to  a somewhat surprising assessment and a question:
"So, here’s where I end up. 3D printers will be seen as a lifestyle product, something you enjoy like a jetski or an espresso machine. What do you think? I might be conservative in my thinking, so how soon do you think we’ll get to one million printers and what will drive those sales?"
So far, what I've seen of them is this... They are incredibly cool products. They are expensive to buy and to operate. The objects they make are crude and unrefined in comparison with what you can make with some skill, some real tools and some interesting materials like raw wood. The objects made are also crude in comparison to the commonplace manufactured objects you can find in any store.

Remember the line in the Dustin Hoffman film, the Graduate? "I have one word for you... Plastics." For some of us, plastic is still plastic. We would prefer the authenticity of real wood to images of wood printed on plastic sheet material laminated to particle board. We would prefer the objects that fill our lives to be objects that we might treasure because we have grown as craftsmen in their making and because they are symbols of the application of earned skill... Not because they came to us over the internet and filled our homes with noxious fumes as we watched them being automatically layered into existence.

In any case, Dale is the founder of Maker Faires and Make Magazine. So he asks a challenging question for the community in which he plays a large part.  In my view, the 3D printer may be an entry point for those who've never been exposed to any sort of creative endeavor. Perhaps a bit of creative inclination will stick. I don't see 3D printing as being able to offer the same level of satisfaction that one can find in the use of tools that can be passed down fully functional from generation to generation in the crafting of real wood. For that check out planes or saws made by Veritas, or Thomas Lie-Nielsen.

It is ironic that in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia, hemsloyd* declined due to the availability of cheap, well-made manufactured goods with which skilled sloyders could not compete. And now we wonder if manufacturers and manufactured goods can be replaced by expensive, poorly made things 3D printed in our own homes. As marvelous as these new devices may be, and they certainly are marvelous, I'll take real wood crafted as an expression of personal skill in preference to automatic stuff.

Make, fix and create...

 *home crafts

Friday, April 05, 2013

the wooden object

Today I am in the Ft. Lauderdale Florida area to prepare for my weekend class. Tonight I will give a hour long presentation, and then tomorrow will begin class in the box making shop of a friend, Don Boudreau.  I'd written about Don's box making back in 2007. My class, sponsored by the South Florida Woodworking Guild will be held in Don's new and larger workshop.

At this point the blog goes back for a number of years of reflection and examination of how wood working can fit in schools, and one of the important areas of past discussion was how the making of an object helps the viewer to understand in greater depth the huge range of objects that comprise our human culture. Our human history is about much more than words and language. If the process of making beautiful and useful objects is not made available to our children, they will not know the cultural value of the objects that inhabit our museums. They will have little or no curiosity about how those objects were made. They will be diminished thereby in their understanding of self and be held at arms length from the rewards of their own creativity.

This earlier post explores an interesting resource for readers who might be interested in how wooden objects tell the story of our humanity. On the same subject, I want to share an interesting story about a fiddle made during the darkest days of WWII. This fiddle is currently on display at the WWII museum in New Orleans and has an Arkansas connection in that the grandson of its maker plays part-time in the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

what can you do? what can you do well?

Been there, done that. Been there, done that. Hey kids, let's do that again... Sound like a recipe for boredom? Not when craftsmanship is involved. Things get refined, new insights are achieved, through the process of conscientious repetition. This applies to music, and it also applies in the crafts. It is often ignored in schools except when it comes to athletics, and might explain why basketball is so popular among parents and kids. In athletics children are encouraged to practice at physical operations to the point of achieving excellence.

Yesterday, I mentioned Thomas Friedman's op ed in the New York Times, emphasizing the need to make kids innovators and inventors of their own futures. And yet the article offered no insight into how this might be accomplished. True invention is no one trick pony. Try riding one time around the ring on the back of a horse, and you will discover your face flat in mud your first time out.

When I was a kid, I read Popular Science each month and dreamed of becoming an inventor. I also grew up in a home filled with medium quality antiques. Not only had I become curious about how things were made, but also about how things were made well. And so, I became an inventor of processes, jigs and tools, that helped me to do things well, and provided a means through which I might share a few ideas with others so that they too, might improve craftsmanship.

It's not enough to get kids making stuff as an encouragement for their inventive spirit. They need to be making things of value to family and community, and learning that what they do, needs be done well, with care to express merit through actual craftsmanship. Educational Sloyd taught that. And if anyone thinks they can instill this spirit of craftsmanship and integrity about how things are done well without getting kids going at an early age, they've missed a thing or two.

I've been reading Thorstein Veblen's text, The Instinct of Workmanship, and it's a tough slog. Not an easy read, and children these days, with Harry Potter and all, are finding an even greater challenge in reading non-fiction material. Fiction leads you forward toward the suspension of disbelief. Non-fiction leads you to carefully reflect on your own life if you are conscious and able and may even call for change. If things don't come easy to the hand, easy to the mind, children have little interest in going deep in learning. But there are things worth the slog. My children who found sawing to be a challenge have found that it has gotten easier for them and still more fun. Reading can be just like that. And what kids learn in the wood shop can serve as a model for all that they will learn in their whole lives.

A few years back one of my students kept responding "I know that," whenever I would attempt to get him to witness a new process using a particular tool.  I knew that while he might be able to understand what I was trying to demonstrate as a concept, there were subtleties and nuances of the operation that he could only understand by watching closely and then attempting to do things himself. So I challenged him, "You show me." And the tool in hand quickly brought both humility and deeper engagement.

As long as we address American education as an intellect only operation, neglecting the challenge of building real skill in the performance of doing real things, we will suffer failing creativity, and push our children toward a future in which they cannot compete as entrepreneurs. For real learning is not just about knowing things, but about being able to do a few things well. Very well. And there is a great lesson in doing even one thing well... that you can apply yourself, and with practice, do other things well, too. And most importantly, that there are huge psychological rewards for doing so.

This afternoon, I fly to south Florida to teach a few box makers how to make boxes more easily, more beautifully, and to have fun. This is a repeat class, with hopes to take their box making to a new level. The video above was suggested by JD and shows the making of basswood pliers. The Warther family has made and given away over 1.5 million pairs of wooden pliers. It's what practice and skill can do for you. "Trial and error and a bunch of band aids and you can do it," too.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

what can you do?

Richard Burman, a Canadian film maker who's particular interest is bringing the hands to light is working on a new documentary, and has a pitch for funding with Cuban Hat. Go and vote. The following is from an article in the New York Times, "Need a Job, Invent it." by Thomas Freidman quoting an email from Tony Wagner, a Harvard education specialist, who's new book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World,” questions the educational status quo:
“Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ”
Today I had my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students in wood shop. We started out with a demonstration of heat treating knive blades, then spent some time  cleaning the shop. There will be a public event in the building that houses my wood shop and I am particularly grateful to Cindy and the middle school class for getting things in order. I am preparing for a trip on Thursday to teach in South Florida over the weekend. It seems the month of April will be a very busy one. In addition to teaching with the South Florida Woodworkers Guild, I have a visit from members of the Oakland Art Museum on the 13th, and the Thea Fine Art Show in Little Rock on the 28th.

In the long run, we will not be measured by what we know, but by what we've done with what we know. Even with the internet, this is not a new thing. Still, in stupidity, public education in the US has made what we know instead of what we can do the center of it all. This strategy makes it easy to test and measure, but very difficult to prepare students for a future they and we cannot foresee. We need to launch schools into a complete state of revolution, engaging the hands of scholars in the scholarship of real stuff.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

shall we choose?

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, our high school students will be worked on their box guitars. Those who were finished began work on mineral collection boxes. Our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students finished their sieves for rock and mineral exploration. The following is from the Contra Coast Times:
The 100 or so active members of the Diablo Woodworkers Club are amateurs in name only. They know their way around a drill press and a lathe, routinely crafting chests, tables, desks, cabinets and chairs. But at their monthly meeting in Pleasant Hill last week, they sat quietly captivated as 75-year-old Gil Johnson stood before them and explained how he made many of the same things.
Johnson, born with impaired vision, has been blind since he was 14.
With trained hands you can do just about anything. Without trained hands, you can watch.   Is school to be about learning to do and lead to an active life? Or is it merely to train observers to stand at the sidelines of life?

The Diablo Woodworkers Club has taken an active role in promoting hands-on learning for Bay area youth. My good friend Bob Barnett, a longtime Diablo woodworker and my primary connection to the club also serves on the board of the Hatlen Center for the Blind. He was no doubt instrumental in bringing Johnson to the attention of the club. Johnson says of his work what any other woodworker might say:
"The smell of fresh-cut wood, the sound of a sharp saw whisking across a board, the sound of a drill -- all those things really touch my soul,"
Make, fix and create...