Thursday, April 26, 2018


Yesterday, the first, second and third grade students at the Clear Spring School reminded me that they wanted to make roller skates. Of course wooden wheeled skates are not the best as far as strength and longevity are concerned, but they figured they could make them the same way they make toy cars.

Then came the discussion about how to attach them to feet. Would scotch tape work? Perhaps duct tape would be required. I suggested they hot melt glue the skates directly to their shoes. They all laughed and told me what a crazy idea that was. But after fooling with tape and strings, they decided hot melt glue was not so crazy after all. Some tried it. In case anyone wonders about the value of such things, Project Zero at Harvard calls it "studio thinking." At MIT they call it tinkering, and it is important that children at all ages are engaged in it.

I went back to school later to check that the skates would indeed come off the shoes when skating was done and before the students left for the day. Fortunately the glue did not provide permanent attachment, so I was relieved to find I was not in as much trouble with parents as I might have been.

I have some cloth Shaker tape, which with velcro applied to each end, may provide a better solution. We will try that later in the week. We will drill a large hole through the body of the skate, pass the canvas strap through and cinch them up. Visiting their classroom, I noticed that some of their skates were already broken or missing wheels, so some repair will be needed. DEspite my warning, some of the students had insisted their wheels would stay on without being glued.

When you've made something yourself, you can fix it, right?

One of the things I keep available in the wood shop are scraps. The kids come up with small pieces of wood that they've drawn upon, and ask, "will your cut cut this for me, please?" I ask them to draw what they want on the edge so I'll not waste so much wood, and I'll remind them that they will need to be patient. I can only help one student at a time. That's why it has become so helpful to me that the kids can make their own wheels. They work in pairs, with one locking the wheel securely in the vise while the other operates the drill press. And at this point, they can make wheels without my help.

If anyone my age with an interest in woodworking wants to feel needed and wanted, volunteer time in a school wood shop. You will be rewarded.

For making skates, the students knew that they needed 8 wheels for making two skates. Understanding that only 4 axles were required would come as they glued the wheels on the boards, as one axle serves two wheels. If things go as they usually do, other students will want to make skates, too.

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

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