Monday, March 16, 2020

under control?

My wife and I have self-sequestered in our home with our dog, Rosie. I hope all are taking Covid-19 seriously and are doing the same. In 2001, I was one of the founding members of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers, While wood programs throughout the US were closing, that association for mutual support was proposed and has persisted to this day.

Now members of NEAWT are sharing ideas about how to continue offering hands-on learning to their student while their schools are closed. We will persist, and grow. A great friend from that group, Paul Ruhlman, shared the following:
I got some remote teaching ideas while jogging this morning.

1. Lloyd Kahn just came out with a book, Half Acre Homestead. Lloyd goes way back as one of the principles of the Whole Earth Catalog and later a founder of the Shelter Institute and related books including Dome Book One & Two. His core philosophy is "Do what you can, where you are with what you have." A good philosophy for these times. There is a great 25 minute video of what he is up to at:

After watching the video, I will be asking my students to come up with a project using things they find around the house. I will be asking the kids to come up with a project using materials and tools found around the house. They get extra credit if they write up the project so that they can share it with their classmates.

2.The artist Alexander Calder is a huge influence in American Art. He is best known for popularizing the mobile. One of my favorite pieces by him is the Circus. During the depression he made circus animal and human figures using mostly wire, scrap wood, and wine corks. He packed his miniature circus in an old suitcase and went to various neighborhoods and put on circus performances for kids and parents. Charging just a penny, it helped him make it through the Depression. There are tons of videos of his work. I’ll let you choose. I will be asking my students to make a piece inspired by Calder, either a mobile or another piece from materials found around the house.

3. I will be asking my students to put together a hypothetical optimum tool kit if they had a budget of $250, using Home Depot or Lowes. Students have to say why they would choose particular tools. You or the students can vote on the best student submission.

4. Cabaret Mechanical Theatre is a great source for mechanical sculpture ideas. I have included a link to sculptures made from food you probably have at home. They also have great mechanical sculpture ideas made using wood. I often make prototypes using cardboard from cereal boxes and toothpicks. A great exercise in creativity and mechanical problem solving.

This is just a start. "Do what you can, where you are with what you have."

We will get through this.
Wishing you the best.
Paul Ruhlmann
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
You can find other ideas on the woodworking teacher website and at

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise


  1. Thanks Doug! I run woodworking classes at a preschool/kindergarden and I've been wondering what I could provide "virtually" to these children during this time. Stay safe!

  2. Paper folding is a great tool for developing woodworking skills at the preschool and Kindergarten level. There's a great book called Paper Sloyd that takes children and their adult guides (teachers or parents) sequentially step by step through a variety of projects designed to build in complexity and required skill. All you need for that would be paper, scissors and a ruler, things I hope all homes would already have. I'll send out resources for this through the blog, perhaps tomorrow.