Tuesday, November 17, 2015

for years now...

On last Friday, my 4th, 5th, and sixth grade students poked a hole in the theoretical underpinnings of my program. Part of the theory of my Wisdom of the Hands program was to enrich their studies by doing projects that were integrated with their classroom studies. For instance, if they were studying dinosaurs, we made model dinosaurs in wood shop. It seemed to me when we began the Wisdom of the Hands program in 2001 that we needed to prove the value of woodworking to staff and administration. So we developed projects to build culture and relationship within the school.

One day last week, my students were unsettled and the lesson I had prepared for them was not a thing that they were at all interested in. They were reading a book about the voyage of Christopher Columbus and I had thought a model and models of the Santa Maria would interest them. Only one student expressed interest, and the others were strongly disinterested. Their classroom teacher heard how noisy they were as they were goofing off. I challenged them at the end of class, telling them that I felt frustrated when they were not interested in learning what I had prepared for them... That I had spent most of my life developing skills, and that my own sense of fulfillment came from passing along what I had worked hard to learn.

So, I struggled in the night before yesterday's class, wondering how to get my students more deeply engaged. But their classroom teacher had raised the same question with them at the close of school on Friday. They told her that they wanted to do projects, not based on the ideal of integration, but of clear service and of meaning to others. It was interesting that I had arrived at the same conclusion during the night.

Yesterday we started two projects. The kids will be making toys for the next month to give to children at the local food bank. Select students will be working on turned projects on the lathe to be given as special gifts from the school. So instead of children goofing off, all were deeply engaged in their work.

Having a project that the children have chosen can make all the difference in the world. And an interesting thing to note, is that integration between classes, though an ideal in that it leads to collaboration between teachers and culture within the school, is not a necessity. Children, left to their own imaginations and intelligence can see the interconnectedness between areas of study, or are capable of making those discoveries on their own.

So, while school administrators all over the world, are embracing iPads as the essential tool, kids, when given the opportunity to do real things that are of meaning to others, will make the better choice.

Make, fix, create, and assist others to learn likewise.

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