Thursday, November 09, 2017


I am packing and preparing for an evening lecture and two days of class with the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild. Today, in addition to a 9 AM class at Clear Spring School, and an 11 AM meeting (also at school) I hope to fine tune my presentation. The two day class will be easy (I tell myself having done such things many times before) but there are things that inevitably come up.

Life is like that. Yesterday, I had four projects for my students (grades 1-3) to work on, and they still came up with the unexpected. For instance, the cat in the photo is one that a student made from beads glued on a board. The same student worked on a wooden wheeled skateboard to replace the earlier one she made that broke.

I was grateful to have their classroom teacher in the wood shop. He made the engine of a toy train.

I can understand why some administrators and teachers would like more control and predictability in the classroom. But we have to ask whether we want children to adjust to being controlled, or whether we want them be creative, thoughtful and to control themselves. I would choose the latter, and that requires allowing some opportunity for the children and teachers to engage in a bit of chaos.

Matti Bergström, Finnish neuro-scientist who had written lovely books about the brain, noted that children must play the "black game," to engage in "possibility" space. Adults often play the "white game" in which all action is to lead to a proposed outcome. Can we not admit for once that the white game is an impossibility? If you work with real wood, on any given day, on any given project, and regardless of your best intentions, things most often do not turn out exactly as you planned. The same is true of working with kids. By allowing their creativity to enter the learning process, they and I get better, more meaningful results. If you engineer schooling, rather than allowing it to flow from the fabric of real life, the whole thing sucks.

Make, fix, and create.

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