Saturday, March 31, 2018

free range learning...

A friend sent this link to an article in the New York Times ( ) describing a new "free range parenting law" passed in Utah, that recognizes that allowing children to do on their own what they are mature enough to do, is not neglect. Parents in some states had been arrested and charged with neglect for allowing children to do simple things like walking home from the park. The free range parenting law appears to recognize that in some cases parents may actually know their children and what they are capable of doing  best.

In New York a few years back, a columnist had described letting her 12 year old son take the bus home alone from the museum (something he had wanted to do and along a route they had taken together many times before). Her big mistake was writing about it. Helicopter parents attacked her without mercy as being the worst mother of the year.

Yesterday I was in our elementary school classroom and took this candid photo of a desk where our  children work together. The photo shows small boxes my students made in wood shop, full of puzzle piece cards the students made. The puzzle pieces have a picture of an object on one side, and the object word on the other, and so you can see its a fun game to make them, a fun game to use them, and it's  an integrated lesson that involves reading, writing, manual dexterity, art, pattern recognition,  and spatial sense (an essential tool for the development of math).

An important function of the teacher in most schools is measuring and recording student performance. But when students are given the opportunity to do real things, they do not need a teacher to measure the results of their learning. Parents see it.  The casual bystander would see it, and most importantly, the students see it for themselves.

Make, fix, and create. Allow others the opportunity of learning lifewise.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Yesterday I drove to Little Rock and back in the same day to attend the Arkansas Governor's Arts Awards Banquet. It was a lovely event and I got to watch friends receive recognition for their contributions to the arts. I had been on the awards panel for the Arts Council and we had made some good choices in support of arts integration in schools.

One of my favorite awards was for an art teacher who's taught for 42 years in a Conway, Arkansas middle school. We awarded her a special Judge's Recognition Award, and I have to say that I'm very pleased we did. She seems to have touched the hearts of all those gathered in celebration of Arkansas Arts.

I arrived home to find that 2 copies of Fine Woodworking #268 had come in the mail. In it are an article I wrote on hidden splines, and one by my good friend Jerry Forshee in which he shares wood working wisdom he's learned from his own experience and from taking many classes with master woodworkers at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Jerry, as a retired University of Indiana professor in computer sciences, has a way of cutting to the chase.

Jerry and I have a strong connection. Several years ago, before Jerry and I had met, his wife complained to my sister Sue that he had been watching a particular woodworking DVD over and over again. Sue asked what it was about. Linda said, "Box Making." Jerry's wife and my sister are best of friends. The very small size of our worlds, in the way we intersect with each other is always a source of amusement, befuddlement and delight. I'm delighted to share a few pages in FWW #268 with such a good friend.

As he has done in the past, Jerry will be assisting me in my classes this summer at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. The photo was taken by Fine Woodworking editor Barry Dima, when he visited with me last fall.

Today I will teach kids at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Ozarks-at-Large features an interview from Sunday's 20th Anniversary celebration at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. You can listen at the following URL:

My students love building on platforms of thin plywood, and have begun building in collaboration with each other. They each contribute and encourage each other's ideas. They take short breaks from their construction to play inside it with the small dolls they have made. In this project, artistic judgment is exercised as well as some engineering. Spatial sense is used and developed. What do you think the value of this work might be? Aside from the amount of fun the kids have. In some school activities student attention may be brief. At the end of wood shop, it's difficult to get them to stop.

Today, I travel to Little Rock to attend the Governor's Arts Awards Banquet. I was on the panel for the Arkansas Arts Council that decided who would receive the awards in about 5 different categories. Our own former ESSA director Peggy Kjelgaard is to receive the Community development award, so I will be joined there by a number of friends. I will also see old friends I've not seen in years, but that are also recipients of this year's Governor's Arts Awards.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Happy birthday Mr. Comenius

John Amos Comenius, was born on this date in 1592 and was considered the father of modern pedagogy (the science of education). He observed:
"Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them."
What better play can we find for either boys or girls, than the activities found in woodshops? The most important point buried in Comenius' quote is the phrase, "now as this is very useful, it ought not be restrained." And the point is that our best leverage on boys learning is to make use of their most natural inclinations. We can say the same for girls as well. There's a saying that you can't push a rope. You can pull one to very great effect. By ignoring the nature of the child, we create education that is destructive, ineffective and least efficient. But if we were to use their natural inclinations to our best advantage, schooling would become efficient, effective and undamaging. If a great teacher in the 16-17th centuries could understand children so clearly, and if subsequent educational leaders like Pestalozzi, Froebel, Comenius, Salomon and Dewey understood children so well, why has education fallen so far off track?

Admittedly, having children do real things in service to their families and communities requires having smaller classes, more teachers and greater preparation than having large number of students sit idly at desks while lessons are administered. And so we have schools where the primary objective has become classroom management rather than learning and development. And now, according to president trump and folks from the NRA, classroom management should include ready access to a gun.

I have another new tool to be used teaching woodworking to kids. Anyone with experience woodworking with kids and the tiny nails required will know that nails get spilled and wasted, and it takes time to pick them up. The small square of  cherry, as shown in the photo, has rare a earth magnet embedded in the surface and provides an easy means to supply the necessary nails  for a project. Since my students like working in close proximity to each other, one magnetic block can be shared between two students.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that students learn lifewise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

a magnet stick

The photo shows a simple tool for holding a nail. YOu'll need to look closely to see the rare earth magnet embedded at the tip. Very small nails are difficult even for a child to hold and there's a tendency to hit the fingers. This simple cherry stick with a 1/8 in. diameter rare earth magnet embedded in a hole drilled at one end is a useful shop made tool for woodworking with kids. It takes only minutes to make.

Today I'll make another simple device using a rare earth magnet. This will be to hold nails on a workbench so they'll not end up on the floor. When I have several students in a class, each needing to draw from the same box of nails, nails are dropped and lost with the sweeping at the end of class. This will be to avoid that.

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, March 26, 2018

quick and classic...

Yesterday at ESSA we had a great turnout for our 20th anniversary celebration. I did a wood turning demonstration and made a Rude Osolnik style candle stick from walnut in about 15 minutes on the lathe. Rude made thousands of them. I've made few, but they are a good exercise in development of skill. Turning one is a good demonstration exercise for showing an audience something simple and delightful that can be quickly made and last for generations.

The human inclination is to make things complicated. Osolnik cut to the chase, removing the non-essential distractions from elegant design. An unexpected payback is simplicity in finishing the work. After turning the form, the removal of tool marks takes just a few minutes with sandpaper. The application of shellac only a few minutes more. A coat of wax polished while the wood is still spinning in the lathe brings the wood to a pleasing luster.

My audience was attentive. It was fun to pass the candle stick around through the audience so that each could feel it in their own hands. I think the audience was surprised to see it develop from a chunk of rough walnut to a finished form in so little time. Osolnik's candlestick form is elegant and expressive.

NASA decided that schooling is diminishing our student's creative capacities. I could have told you that myself,  as  there's been other research on the subject, but it is good to hear common sense from the authority of the Space Administration.

Spring break ends this morning so my classes at the Clear Spring School will resume.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that students can learn lifewise.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

what we saw.

Yesterday my wife and I attended a rally in Bentonvile, Arkansas in support of the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, DC and other cities throughout the world. There were right wing hecklers who tried to interrupt moments of silence held for victims of gun violence, but those folk were part of a tiny minority. Like the students in the national rally, the students from Bentonville and the surrounding area were well spoken and well informed.

What we are witnessing will (I hope) have lasting effect. The object is not to take away all guns. What we all want is for students to be safe. Not only in schools, but in concerts and on the streets, too. The ending of the plague of gun violence requires the removal of some guns, the end of a culture that glorifies guns, and the end of a reign of political power dependent on rigid adherence  to the demands of the NRA. If young people vote, the era of the angry white guy dominating the national discourse is kaput. Along with that, I hope will come the time when political discourse does not lead folks to scream at each other.

Today is Incredible Edible at ESSA, 3-6 PM. The various studios will be open for your enjoyment. I will be demonstrating on the lathe, and there will be demonstrations in blacksmithing, clay and paint, also.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

In solidarity with students

Today my wife and I will go to Bentonville, AR to march in solidarity with students promoting stricter gun control. The interesting thing is that tools have a tendency to be used according to their original intent. The purpose of an AR-15 as it was developed is to kill folks. It was developed as a weapon of war, and even though some claim it as a tool of "sportsmanship," real hunters would  not need it or want it.

This week, the New Yorker has an article about kids who own weapons and defend their rights to use them. They describe the power they feel and the pride they feel in the mastery of their weapons. They could just have easily been describing the use of a chisel, plane or carving knife, and would have thence known their creative, rather than destructive power. If we would put tools of creativity in the hands of kids, those tools might soothe worried souls, heal those who tend toward derangement, and give students renewed faith in themselves and in each other.

Congress refuses to control the distribution of overly dangerous weapons, and it also fails to acknowledge the value of real tools and the need for children to engage creatively and meaningfully in their environment. These students involved as leaders in the march have tried and tried to get their point across to deaf ears, too busy with meaningless moments of silence, and too strongly obedient to the leadership of the NRA to actually do anything about the problem. I applaud the children for leading us forward.

I have been attempting to get a grip on my new book in the works, on the Wisdom of the Hands.

The photo shows a simple box.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.,

Friday, March 23, 2018


As shown in the photo I have completed a wooden post card for auction and fundraising at ESSA's Incredible Edible Fundraising event. This Sunday we will also celebrate the organization's first 20 years. As I suggested to my co-founders 20 years ago, we did not need to start big, but we did need to get started. So we started as a school without walls and had only a few scheduled classes.

No we have a 60 acre campus and a number of buildings and are growing in service to our community. We are growing, not only because of our new wood shop, but because of a wonderful staff and volunteers.

Please join us at ESSA on Sunday, March 25 from 3-6 PM for our celebration. Unless I'm mistaken, I'll be demonstrating some simple wood turning techniques.

When I went to the Eureka Springs post office to select a stamp for my "work of postal art," I went through all the stamps available and selected the "celebrate," stamp to represent the celebration of our 20th anniversary. The card is made of layers of veneers. The outermost veneer is birdseye maple, and the inside of the curved form is burled and quilted cherry. Bid on it and it may become yours.

This is the third one in a series of cards done for Incredible Edible events over the last three years. It was hand cancelled by a postal clerk at the Eureka Springs Post Office. She told me, "you'll need more stamps if you plan to mail this." I told her, "this is art, and not to be mailed." Is it art? What is art? Is it something that touches us in some way that we cannot fully grasp or comprehend? Perhaps.

I have been working at ESSA, getting it ready for the spring and summer classes, and finishing walnut boxes in the home wood shop.

The plastic garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is now noted to be 16 times the size it had been previously thought. 
"Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year – the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck’s worth into the seas every minute for a year. Once in the ocean, much of this waste is pulled into huge areas known as the five “gyres” – one of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – where circular currents allow the trash to accumulate, circulate and slowly break down." 
It's a shame more useful stuff is not made from wood instead, and of sufficient beauty and quality to be treasured for generations. But that would require that we train fresh generations of American craftsmen. Are we ready? We don't need to start big, but we do need to start.

Make, fix, create and inspire others to learn lifewise.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

craftsmanship at home.

Yesterday on the way to ESSA I followed the truck shown in the photo carrying large logs being exported from Arkansas. Based on the frequency with which I see these trucks passing through Eureka Springs, there must be nearly a dozen trucks a day headed to Gateway, Arkansas where they are processed, sorted, milled, with some being sent to China for making the finer things we once made for ourselves.

On the one hand, for a poor state like Arkansas, it's good to see commerce. On the other, it's sad to see such large, beautiful logs cut from the hillsides of Arkansas, without furthering the development of the skills of our own folks. The color suggests that the logs are cherry. The largest one, occupying much of the front portion of the truck, was about three feet in diameter. That was a valuable load of wood which would have been of greater value developing craftsmanship at home.

On a much smaller scale, I've been making walnut boxes and a postcard to be sold at the Incredible Edible Art Show at ESSA on Sunday, March 25.  The event will take place in the wood and metals studio, from 3-6 PM. It also celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

To put things into perspective, the single load of wood would be enough to keep a single craftsman busy his whole life learning to craft beautiful, useful and lasting things. It will most likely be mulched into a stream of products, quickly made and quickly abandoned, without providing for the growth of American craftsmanship. When a craftsman is at work (I include women equally in this, as they are often better craftsmen than men), the individual's skills and integrity are developed and upon those features of human dignity communities form. These days, folks are scattered both in mind and heart. The hands and the skills and character derived from them have the potential of bringing things back.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

not shy about taxes...

It may feel as though you're working real hard. If you are part of the vast majority of Americans you may be working very hard to make ends meet.

Conservatives say "It's your money, and you should decide how you spend it." That's a  simplistic line that resonates at the polling place.

In the wood shop, I use tools others have invented, techniques that I have learned from others, and materials that come as a gift from nature. When someone buys my work,  or commissions a new work, they set me in motion making more, and so we can take the wood shop as a microcosm of the larger word. All things are connected with all other things.

If you assume that the government is a hungry monster of evil intent, and a reflection of all the evil people who surround you that want to take your stuff, you might get angry about taxes and any effort to raise them. So these days, folks being as angry as they are, no one ever proposes a tax increase. quite the opposite is true. The accepted mantra is cut, cut, cut, and along with cut, cut, cut comes steep and relentless cuts in the services we provide for each other.

I propose a tax increase, and my proposal is based on a broader view of humanity. I watch closely, and what I've observed is that people spend a lot of time caring for and about each other. We gather together to do all kinds of things whether we get paid for it or not. My base assumption is that people are good, want to do good things (like caring for their kids) and that they sometimes need help.

If you get to know anyone in government, you would learn that almost without exception, they are caring folks just like you. Government is the tool through which caring people work to improve the lives of each other in ways that we would be incapable alone. We are each personally enriched when we assure that the needs of our fellow Americans and community members are met.

Our governments, local, state, and federal are empowered to do good and to fulfill our goals for a safe, sane and caring society only when adequate tax revenue is provided. We are talking specifically about schools, libraries, roads, health, safety, and national security, none of which would be available to us without adequate taxation. I oppose tax reductions for those who can most easily afford to pay for the security and health of our nation, those who have in turn received the largest share of benefits from the society and economy built through the enormous efforts of earlier generations and by those working right now.

Yesterday I made a wooden post card to be sold at ESSA's Incredible Edible Art Show. Various artists have been invited to make post cards to sell. My own (once again) is made of wood. I've yet to affix the stamp. This is my 3rd day of Spring Break. Yesterday we met with folks from A+ Schools to begin planning their fall Fellow's Retreat in which those who train teachers to utilize the arts in their classrooms. In the Fall Fellow's Retreat I will have the opportunity to teach Fellows to teach teachers to use woodworking in A+ schools.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

At work in my home shop

Yesterday was the first day of spring break so I began taking photographs of materials preparations for teaching wood working to kids. The process involved ripping spruce 2 x 4's into material for box making. Spruce is particularly good for woodworking with kids, as it saws easy, and nails without splitting unless you get too close to the end or an edge. It is also available at most lumber yards. It sands easy, and being light colored, it can be decorated with markers or paint.

I also worked on walnut boxes as you can see in the photo. One of these will be used as a gift at the University of Arkansas and the others will be sold.

What is it about the hands that people don't understand? In addition to making us smart and standing in when other senses fail, they have a direct effect on our feelings of well-being. Kelly Lambert had called that effect "Effort Driven Rewards," and her research shows that when rats have to work for what they get they are happier with less stress than when life is made easy for them.  That explains a few things about us. When we are actively creating something by hand, we feel better. And so, since hand-work is a means toward mental health, that's reason enough for all children to do hands-on creative activities in school. If not woodworking, they should at the very least learn to cook and care for each other.

When Jacquie Froelich from our local public radio station asked what I hoped might be the outcome of our cane making project, I told her that I hope one of our students would see some elderly person at our local grocery store relying upon one of the canes they had made. That would be full circle.

In the few days since we delivered the canes, three have been given away by the doctors to people in need. At that rate, the supply will be exhausted in as little as 9 weeks.  That may give us an excuse to make more, or to make this exercise and annual event.

Today I meet with folks from A+ Schools to begin planning for a possible fall fellow's retreat.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the hands shape the brain...

A video shown on CBS Sunday Morning features two correspondents of mine, Kelly Lambert and Matthew Crawford. I have written about both before in the blog.  Matthew Crawford has in turn written about my writing, first quoting me at the beginning of chapter one of his first book, and then devoting the last chapter of his last book to explore the meaning of the same quote which follows:
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
The video illustrates how the use of the hands actually alters brain chemistry, leading us to live happier and more productive lives. My earlier review of Matthew Crawford's book that I wrote for Northern Woodlands, can be found here:

Yesterday I rearranged wood drying at ESSA for my class on building a Viking Chest. It had gone from sopping wet, to 15% though having it stickered on the floor and with an oscillating fan moving air through the pile of wood for the last two weeks. It should go from 15% to 7% by June 15, being stickered in the wood rack as shown.

I also worked on a long overdue cleaning of my home wood shop and began preparing for photos for a new workbook, helping teachers (and parents)  teach wood working to kids.

Make, fix, and create...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

a fresher view.

Today in the wood shop, I plan to clean first and then cut lumber as I would in preparing stock for school classes. I'll have my camera set up to record the process of preparing to teach kids.

Last week was exciting. We launched the boats and delivered canes for the injured and infirm. This week, while the students are off for Spring Break, I launch the the building of a new book about woodworking with kids. On Tuesday I give the leaders from A+ Schools a tour of the ESSA campus in the hopes that we can work with them on their fall fellow's retreat.

There seem to be two basic ways to look at human beings. Some will adopt the position that human beings are bad folks, or that among among us are very bad folks, and then build walls on that basis to keep us apart. Another view is that folks are basically good, that we are generally safe in each other's company, and that we become safe and safer by caring for each other. I seem to fit best to the latter category. Life in a small town has led me to that position.

Here in Eureka Springs, we express care for each other through a variety of non-profit organizations, and if someone was to doubt the goodness of the human being or of being human, he or she would need to look no further than the efforts of so many volunteers and become convinced. People, even those who think poorly of human kind, feel inclined to give something of themselves voluntarily to others, even when they are gathering together to demand that we build huge towering walls between us. Even they offer evidence that I'm right.

Yesterday I went on a tour at the redesigned galleries at Crystal Bridges Museum. The curator had in mind that the museum could tell more than the standard view of American History. Diversity is the word we heard. That word insists that the paintings of the great masters of American art, be displayed in proximity to the works of others, equally masterful and as powerful in their skilled intent.

Now, alongside a famous painting by an American master, you may also find a relic from our indigenous past. You will find delicately beaded children's moccasins, and other lovely things. The beaded moccasins in particular tell the story of the great love that American Indian mothers felt for their children. Is that so different from what any other mother might feel? They also illustrate the tremendous pride they had in their work. Is that any different from what a white mother might feel?

Also, instead of only paintings and sculpture, some furniture is there, reminding us that great art is not only flat work or sculptural forms.  It does not comes only from one race or one class or one gender and can be made to serve as a part of daily life. There are those who insist on building walls between us, by assigning greater value to one gender, or one race than another.  Crystal Bridges seems to have launched itself in the direction of presenting a fresher view.

Play (in school and out) is the means through which we learn about who we are in relation to each other. The objects our students make through play are a part of this process, as you can see in the photo.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

sevice and community

One purpose of "formal" education is that of assisting the child in forming a sense of self within the larger communities we live within. First family, then community, then state, nation, and world. Within those communities are overlapping communities. We have the world of man, but also the natural world of plants, animals, physics and stars.

If you make an attempt to extract a person from within the matrix of communities in which we live what you would find would be protoplasm incapable of long term self-support. No man is an island unto himself. We are interconnected with all things whether we take all things consciously into consideration or not.

On Thursday, in addition to launching our boats, we delivered canes to our local medical center, where they were graciously received by Dr. Kresse. The event was covered by Jacqueline Froelich, reporter for NPR. Over a month ago Jacquie had interviewed our students in our workshop as they were crafting the canes. During the interview it occurred to me that at some point one of our students may be at the grocery store and see one of the canes they've made in use by someone either elderly or disabled. It is an important thing to know that you are an essential part of something larger than yourself,  that who you are matters to others and that there are inward rewards for being of service.

The following is from Froebel and Education through Self-Activity by H. Courthope Bowen describing a conversation between Adolph Diesterweg and Friedrich Froebel:
The night was clear, bright, and starry, as they drove home from Inselsberg to Liebenstein, and the beauty of the heavens had set them talking. "No one of the heavenly bodies is isolated; every planet has its centre in the sun of its system. All the solar systems are in relation and continual interaction with one another. This is the condition of all life — everywhere mutual relation of parts. As there above, in great things, unbroken connection and harmony rule, so also here below, even in the smallest thing; everywhere there are the same order and harmony, because the same law rules everywhere, the one law of God, which expresses itself in thousand-fold many-sidedness, but in the last analysis is one, for God is himself the law." "That is what people call pantheism," remarked Diesterweg. "And very unjustly," rejoined Froebel; "I do not say, like the pantheists, that the world is God's body, that God dwells in it, as in a house, but that the spirit of God dwells and lives in nature, produces, fosters, and unfolds everything, as the common life principle. As the spirit of the artist is found again in his masterpieces, so must we find God's spirit (Geist) in his works."
Have you not yourself, walked with friends along a pathway in a starry night and wondered at the billions of stars and the interrelationship between all things? You need not be religious to do so.

These days the concept of God no longer plays much role in secular educational thought. In fact, Adolph Diesterweg was an early advocate of the separation between schooling and religion. So the conversation between Froebel and Diesterweg is relevant even today. The idea that learning must lead beyond ourselves into feelings of connectedness with human culture and with the world of nature and of all else should be a simple matter of material concern in education. It is not necessary that schooling be tied to and utilized as a means of indoctrination in particular religious faiths in order to lead students to a sense of their own connectedness.

The child must learn to get along with others. The child must learn to be respectful of human rights and be led to shoulder the burdens of adult responsibilities. The child must learn to see self in others and discover his or her place in the wholeness of all life. The child must learn to care for the planet on which we all live. And so whether or not a school is secular or non-secular, the responsibilities are the same, and even without reliance on the concept "God," children can discover both morality and what Froebel identified as "connectedness."

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Launch of the Bevins Skiffs...

Yesterday we delivered canes to the Eureka Family Medical Center and launched our Bevins Skiffs. The kids took turns rowing around the lake, and I, too, got a turn at the oars.

The boats rode nicely in the water on a beautiful, sunny day at Lake Leatherwood. Photographers from both local papers and a reporter from National Public Radio were on hand.

The simple message should be clear. The things that most ail American education can be described as the 5 D's. We've got disinterest, distraction, disappointment, disillusionment and disruption. Some students go though 13 years of schooling without ever being disruptive, but most suffer at least from the first 4.

We can add another D, for depression. It's how we all feel when recess is deprived us. Boat building is a thing that excites kids. It simulates their imaginations. It makes them very proud of what they have accomplished. And they learn many things besides woodworking by building a boat.
If you were watching for any of the five D's of education, you would not have found them in boat building. We did find a very minor leak that quickly closed and that the students are sure they can fix.

The writings of Adolf Diesterweg were the source for Otto Salomon's principles of Educational Sloyd as you will discover in the following passage.
Teach naturally! Organize instruction according to the natural developmental stages of the children. Start teaching from the pupil's point of view and direct his progress steadily, firmly and thoroughly. Do not teach anything for which the pupil is not yet ready and do not teach anything with which he is already familiar. Teach in a lively manner. Proceed from the familiar to the unusual, from the simple to the complex, from the easy to the difficult, from the known to the unknown. Do not teach in an academic way (in other words, the lecture-type teaching methods used in higher educational institutions), but simply! Always remember that you are aiming at the abstract (increasing the intellectual capacity) and the material (provision of the curriculum) at the same time.
Diesterweg also advised the educator, "Learn to do by doing." That is good advice for anyone wanting to start woodworking with kids.

I put additional photos on Instagram I want to thank those who came to cheer the boat launch and Dr. Kresse for his warm welcome at the Eureka Family Medical Center as we delivered canes. Former Clear Springs teacher Juanita, came to our launch to oversee water safety. Thank you Juanita!

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

today, is a big day.

At noon we deliver canes to our local medical center. At 1 PM we take our Bevins Skiffs to Lake Leatherwood for the launch. The press may be at both locations. It should be commonplace for students to do real things in schools, but American education has a pattern of sequestering schools from communities and students from reality. So service projects like making canes for the elderly or building boats are not as common as they could be.

Yesterday hundreds of thousands of school students went to the streets to protest gun policy in the US. I stand in awe of their youthful activism. Smart kids in a stupid country. The idea of turning schools into armed camps, further separated from community life is dead wrong. Instead, we should work to make all of our communities safe. If that requires the removal of certain kinds of weapons, and making sure that certain types of people do not have access to them, let's do that. It's reasonable, and our kids have demand it. Even though the government is out of touch, I stand with our students and demand action.

Schools should be deeply embedded in and responsible to their communities, and schools should serve the whole of community life. By having students actively involved in real life, we build citizens. Perhaps that's what worries some most.

The cat was made by a new first grader at the Clear Spring School. He said of it, "It's my best work yet."

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

window hydroponics.

Today in wood shop our middle school class will use our woodworking tools to assemble a hydroponic window garden from plastic bottles. Our students and their teacher have been visiting recycling centers to get uniform powerade bottles. Improved plastic water bottles have become too flimsy as the amount of plastic in them has been reduced. They will not take the twisting strain that comes from drilling a hole in the bottom.

We can hope that the human love affair with non-degradable plastic ends soon, as we are literally drowning in it. In weight and volume, the amount of plastic in the oceans is nearly equal to the weight and volume of fish. The fish are losing, plastic winning, and the planetary consequences dire.

I must note that how we raise and handle our food is a "Wisdom of the Hands" thing. Do we prepare food with attention and love? And are our foods, that come from the generosity of nature, responsibly acquired? So far, the folks on this small planet are not doing our best in providing for the long term. To do so requires that our children be raised in sensitivity and consciousness.

My lower elementary school students will exercise their consciousness for another day of making wheeled animals. Now that my testing is complete, I'll begin writing my review of the Leigh Box Joint and Beehive Jig. The results are shown in the photo. I hope that with the Box Joint and Beehive Jig, many new bee hives will be made. Like so many other living things, Bees are in dire need of care and we've done far too little to protect them. The chemical companies have well funded lobbies in Congress. Bees do not.

Make, fix, and create. Provide for children to learn likewise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

evidence of learning.

We are preparing for our boat launch and delivery of canes on Thursday. The boat oars are fitted and ready to row. A reporter from our local NPR affiliate will be on hand for both events.

In wood shop yesterday, one of the students noted a spot of yellow paint on her jacket. She said that she proudly tells folks when asked, "That's boat paint." And I know how she feels.

To wear evidence of concrete engagement is a good thing. Another student echoed the sentiment. When asked about a bit of gray color on his sleeve he told someone, "That's boat primer." And from there, they are proud to tell what they've been up to at the Clear Spring School. Schools needs not be sequestered from concrete reality. In fact, they should be deeply engaged in community life. A bit of primer on the sleeve can invite students to brag about what they've done.

We have new boys in the lower elementary school class, so for wood shop yesterday I decided to welcome them by making toy cars. For the girls who are enamored with cats and unicorns, I made my model for the exercise in the form of a pig car. Catcars and unicarns can come from their own imaginations. To prepare for the exercise I made wheels and cut blocks of wood and set up the drill presses to be ready to go. The students are required to assist each other in the drilling of wheels, and they've gotten good at it. We use a simple fixture that I made for the drill press that centers the wheel blank under the drill bit.

What you see in the photo is my quickly made demonstration pig car at right, and a first grader's caticarn left with me at the close of the class as a gift. I will load other photos of student's work to my instagram account.

Make, fix, and create. Lead others in learning likewise.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Blacksmithing at ESSA

This weekend we had a blacksmithing class at ESSA, taught by a former ESSA blacksmithing student Bert Jones. He's become both an expert in the craft, and also an expert in teaching the craft, so we can see how one can support others and build strength and intelligence in a community. The class was full with some experienced and some beginning blacksmiths.

As one of the founders of ESSA, I feel a sense of pride to see others learning and growing in the arts, whether it's in painting and design, or in the blacksmith shop.

In my own home shop, I'm getting materials ready to make some walnut boxes to test the Leigh box joint and hive jig for Fine Woodworking.

Ask yourself, what the character of our communities would become if we were all to learn by doing real things? Students would care about what they were learning, because the things they were learning would be of value to their communities. The schools might become places of deep community engagement rather than being sequestered from being sequestered at the sidelines.

Make, fix, create, and assist in the transformation of American Education.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

odd things...

Yesterday we had a very nice open house at Clear Spring School. The weather was beautiful. Old friends and supporters of the school came by as well as prospective new parents.

It was sad to hear some reports of things not working out for certain kids in our local public school. This is not to say anything against teachers or staff. The system of education in which too many children are placed in a class, and too little teacher time is available to meet individual student's needs and interests is a formula in which some students may suffer harsh consequences. Teachers also suffer under such conditions and may leave the profession due to unreasonable circumstances.

If children place other children under undue emotional and physical stress, we call it bullying. What do we call it when adults place children (or are required to place children) under undue physical and emotional stress? We never hear that called bullying. We call it control of the classroom, and requiring students to comply with authority. Do I dare say what others will not say?

When students are released from rigid classroom authority and then go out onto the playground to unwind and apply methods associated with bullying, where can we find the model for it? And what should we expect?

On Friday, I met with a group from the local Democratic Party to discuss their platform. One young man wanted to address the problems of mental illness and the diagnosis and support for mental illness within education. His concerns came from the immediacy of his highschool and college participation in which he has been a personal witness to depression, anxiety, and bullying leading to suicide. Part of our discussion centered on the use of drugs to adjust students to unreasonable classroom conditions.

I have said this before. One of the basic things children are hard wired to do is learn. They will do that whether we teach them or not. Encouraged in learning, they will love learning their whole lives. Teaching and allowing children to learn are not necessarily the same thing.

We make our children grow up far too quickly. And that's something that can be fixed. In case you've not noticed, the governments (at any level) will not do that for us.

I found something odd in the advertising that flashes across my computer browser screen. It is a cover image of an old DVD that I'd not seen before and that is on steep clearance sale at Taunton Press. The odd thing is that it features my hands, my old table saw, my old tape measure, my pencil, and my sled, cutting parts I have marked. The back cover of the DVD credits me as photographer and the image was close cropped and taken from P. 47 of my Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making. But rather than surprise me, it might have pleased the actual author of the material, Jim Cummins, to have had his own hands and work on the cover, not mine. It might have been more truthful to the customer to have the cover more closely related to the contents of the DVD.

make, fix and create... assist and encourage others to learn likewise.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

openhouse at the Clear Spring School.

The wood shop at Clear Spring School will be open to guests today March 10, 2018  from 11-3 PM during our school's Spring Open House. Drop by.

In my wood shop I am preparing to test a new Leigh Box and Beehive jig for Fine Woodworking Magazine. It comes ready for assembly but for the wooden beam at the center which the woodworker must supply, then cut to size and mount the parts on. Once made it should be ready for making hundreds of boxes using the router bit supplied. After I prepare some stock, I'll make some test boxes. The jig can be used to cut finger joints in both 1/2 in. and 3/4 in. sizes using the same router bit, and can be used either with a hand-held router or on the router table.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning to learn likewise.

Friday, March 09, 2018

cats and canes

I can usually get my lower elementary school kids interested in anything if it involves cats and unicorns. So yesterday we made cat boxes with pivot lids. One made a caticorn and another a unicorn box. The pivot lids make use of small wooden parts originally intended for use as axles to attach wheels to toy wooden cars.

To install a pivot lid you just drill a hole of the right size to fit the pin and glue the pin in place. You must avoid getting glue on the lid as that would stop it from moving altogether. Pivot lid pins can be found at this site:

We also applied finish to the canes being made by our middle school students for the local medical clinic. You can go on instagram to see students with the canes we have made. We will present the canes to the clinic next week and have made an appointment with the lead doctor to do so.

On instagram, I also have a picture of the cat box I made as a model. A principle of Educational Sloyd is to move from the concrete to the abstract, and we are always better equipped to fulfill what is expected of us, if we are engaged in concrete learning (doing real things), and learning from the concrete (the real world). That is a lesson most policy makers and administrators would do well to grasp. It is why music, the arts, scientific experimentation, service learning, field trips, outdoor studies and physical education enormously enhance rather than detract from actual learning.

My student who made the cat box shown wanted to make certain that you knew it was not finished yet. What artist wants you to judge their work before it is complete? She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to write, "I'm not finished," on it.  She cut the shape to be like a cartoon word bubble so that her unfinished box could talk. Clever, no?

The cat boxes we made for holding their word puzzle cards had to be kept at school for use, so the students were all very happy when I told them they could take these home. If you made one at school, what would you want to do with it?

Make, fix, and create...

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Today in the wood shop...

Today my middle school students will be applying finish to canes. My lower elementary school students will be making friendship boxes to share with each other. In my spare time, I'll attach the seats to the Bevins Skiffs.

The hands ascertain the truth and make things real. You can see how it works. In fact, you can feel it. The engagement of the hands is therefore symbolic. When the hands are at work, the mind and body are there also. When folks are required to save the ship, the mate calls "all hands on deck," meaning everyone with mind or body or both must attend to the matter at hand. No slouchers. Intelligent folks with hands and mind are welcome and required.

So it is with education. We can leave children sequestered from reality and hope that they can find their way into service despite their lack of engagement, or we can take steps to bring reality and full sensory engagement into service of learning. We can call this "the strategic engagement of the hands." Music, the arts, laboratory science, outdoor education, field trips, wood shop, service learning, sports, etc. Each of these can be brought to bear in re-energizing American education.

The oddest thing is that development of the mind for reading is reinforced by the development of the body in play. So we confine children to their desks. Is there any sense in that?

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


I cut the seats to fit the Bevins Skiffs yesterday, so final painting is getting closer on the horizon. We have set next Thursday March 15 as launch day. Our 10 day forecast is for temperatures in the 60s and partly sunny.

Companies that place a greater emphasis on design beat the Standard and Poor index by 219% over a ten year period.

Much of that success is earned by paying attention to the customer experience. What if we were to pay close attention to the student experience and adjust education to meet the needs and interests of each child? That happens best in small schools where no children fall through cracks and all are included.

The students at Clear Spring have been playing zombie tag at recess... all of them, from first grade through high school, and all at the same time. When it comes to play, or learning, or learning through play, no child is left behind.

My high school students were having a discussion wood shop about what they remembered from public school. I asked them to explain the difference between learning at public school and learning at Clear Spring. They noted, "here we learn by doing real things." And "when we do real things, they matter more to us and we remember them longer."

Is that not the same for you?

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

gaga court

Some of you may remember that our school travel program led to students wanting to build a gaga court which received a great deal of use for its first two or three years. Students this year have not been playing gaga, but the court is a favorite hangout spot anyway. Kids climb in, and kids climb out and classes gather there for reasons of all kinds.

Our gaga court is a bit different from most in that we built it with six sides instead of four, so it forms a more nearly circular conversation pit.

I took the photo yesterday as our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students and their teacher were gathered there for morning talk as I was with our high school students painting boats.

Today I will be installing seats in our Bevins Skiffs.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, March 05, 2018

fine tuning...

Yesterday I continued to work some at ESSA to get ready for summer classes. Much of what I'm doing now would not be readily noticed. I've made two router tables but for the fences which come next. In addition to building table saw storage carts, I finished the table saw sleds by adding Lucite shields over the blades. These are to suggest keeping the hands a safe distance from the blade. They also keep small offcuts and parts from being dropped on the spinning blade.

There's still plenty of work to do that would keep me busy one or two afternoons a week up until the start of classes. We are attempting to hire a shop manager who would lift some of the burden and allow me to spend more time in my own shop.

If the weather is good, we will continue to paint boats today. The temperature is just right, but will it rain?

In my interview with Charles Brock for the Highland Woodworker, he asked a simple question that he asks all his program guests, "What do you hope to see as the legacy of your work?" My answer was "Lucy." You may know that my daughter Lucy is teaching high school in New York and a long ways from my wood shop. But having her in my shop as a very small child was what led me to consider the need for children to be involved in wood working and led me then in time to teach at the Clear Spring School. She is a symbol for all the students who have passed through the Wisdom of the Hands program over the last 17 years.

They each have gained a bit of knowledge about themselves by having crafted beautiful and useful things from wood. Each carries an understanding of the way the hands work to reinforce, and re-inform mind. The effect may be subtle, but the hands, awakened will leave their mark.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 04, 2018

carving and making.

Yesterday at ESSA we started out with the area woodcarver's group, and then in the afternoon, I had a visit from Charles Brock and his assistants from the Highland Woodworking Show. They drove from Nashville. The video they produce about my teaching and my box making will be available online in April. I will let you know when and how to find it online.

I also worked on two router tables for the ESSA wood shop and with the exception of the simple fences that must be made, they are ready for our summer classes.

The photo is of me with video series host Chuck Brock.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

carvers away...

Yesterday at ESSA I built two small wheeled cabinets for holding supplies, blades, pushsticks, and accessories at our two table saws. I also nearly completed two router tables, so you can see that I had a productive day.

The table saw supply cabinets are shown before the wheels were added. These will be useful, and while they are not finely finished works of art, they push the wood shop a bit further towards being fully functional for our teaching staff. I could not have purchased anything that would serve so well. All the things a teacher will need for each saw will be easy to find. The smaller compartments are for blades.

Today you are invited to join the woodcarver's group. No RSVP is required. Show up. Bring a project. Receive carving tips and encouragement. If you have no tools or wood, show up anyway. We will supply you with what you'll need to get started and woodworkers are know for sharing with each other. Have no skill to share? We can help with that, also. We call it practice.

The hours are 9-noon, and the location is the Wood Studio on the campus of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, 15751 HWY 62W, Eureka Springs (West of Lake Leatherwood City Park). If you've not visited the ESSA wood shop, I'll give you a personal tour.

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

Friday, March 02, 2018

Today at ESSA

I am off today from the Clear Spring School, due to parent/teacher/child conferences, so I will work at ESSA getting some things done before summer classes. I am building two router tables and two rolling carts to fit under the table saw extensions to hold extra blades, accessories and push sticks. I also need to fine tune the compound miter saw table.

On Saturday at ESSA we have a meeting of local wood carvers, and following that, I will meet with Chuck Brock who hosts video interviews with well-known woodworkers for Highland Woodworking. In the video I will demonstrate the quick and easy way to make a box with a 3 corner match and talk about my work.

You are welcome to attend the woodcarving group. No membership or RSVP is required. No experience either. We have tools, materials and expertise to share, free.  Just show up. The hours are 9-noon, and the location is the Wood Studio on the campus of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, 15751 HWY 62W, Eureka Springs (West of Lake Leatherwood City Park). If you've not visited the ESSA wood shop, I'll give you a personal tour.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

quick thinking.

On Monday I was to have my first, second and third grade students make boxes to hold puzzle pieces cut from index cards. After the words are written on index cards on one end, and  pictures of what the word represents are drawn on the other, the card is cut in two pieces along a random line like a puzzle. A collection of puzzles, as planned by their primary teacher makes a great learning game, both in the making of them and in the practice reading and learning vocabulary.

My students on Monday, however, insisted that they not make boxes, but make cats instead. Yesterday, with a bit of quick thinking, I turned tables, and challenged them to make cat boxes. What you see in the photo are some of the results.

The boxes I'd planned in the first place were boring.  These are cool and will be kept as treasures along with the word puzzle cards that fit inside. When I stopped in their classroom before the end of the day, the students were busy with markers and scissors making puzzle cards and cutting them apart.

A rule in Educational Sloyd is that students move from the concrete to the abstract, so I always provide a model of what the students are to make. Making a model helps me to anticipate problems the student will face and it gives the student something real to examine rather than being dependent on me to guide every step. So I made a cat box of my own design first, and the students upon completing theirs compared whether they liked their's or mine best. The consensus favored their more colorful work. Next time I'll use markers.

Besides learning spelling and vocabulary in a fun game, the students are also exercising their spatial sense in the fitting of puzzle parts together, and they are becoming quite good with scissors at the same time. Their teacher is trained in A+ Schools to integrate the arts in student learning.

I am off from school for the next two days while parent/teacher/child conferences are held. So I will be working in my own shop.

Make, fix and create...