Saturday, September 04, 2021

box making with friends

Yesterday morning we finished my box making with friends class at the Clear Spring School, and my students left with boxes they had made. Chuck noted that he could not have made his box without my guidance and support, and that's true. I provided the wood, the tools, the techniques and guided the process throughout, and was very happy to do so. The class was held as a fundraiser for Clear Spring Schoo, so they provided the shop space. My involvement did not diminish the pride they had for their boxes, which had become symbolic of friendship and their own learning.

There are two kinds of educational scaffolding. One is where the teacher sets up all the stuff in the environment, including step-by-step instruction and observation to eliminate possible mistakes. That kind of scaffolding ends when the student steps out of class, finished lesson in hand. You walk into a shop with all provided for your success and then when you leave class the scaffolding is no longer in place.

The other kind of scaffolding is within. It consists of knowledge gained through experience and is transferable from one environment to the next. It's built in the following manner. Start with the interests of the child, proceed from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. If you've caught me repeating myself again and again, it's because what I've said is worth knowing.

The way that the two forms of scaffolding intersect is through forming of "islands of competence." The feelings of "I did this!" and "I can do that!" can carry forward from external scaffolding to the next learning opportunity.

My friend Kim Brand is putting maker spaces in Indiana schools and recently worked with Maplewood Shop to train 36 teachers from one school. Kim was amazed watching teachers learning as he noted that very few actually followed instructions but all the teachers loved it as their own distinct personalities emerged. 

The purpose of a chemistry laboratory is not different from the purpose of a school wood shop. In either, you can do things that you are not able to do outside the laboratory environment. A shop or laboratory are forms of external scaffolding. Formation of the internal scaffolding is aided by the attention of the teacher who's job is to watch over the points I mentioned before, starting with the interests of the child.

Make, fix and create.

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