Thursday, April 19, 2018

kite flying day

Yesterday during wood shop time, we attached tails to kites and short strings and took them to the field adjoining the school to give them a test flight. The kids loved the experience. Some ran with their kites until nearly worn out. We have some repair work to do on some of the kites. Torn paper must be either taped or replaced.

Mainly, however, despite some abuse (one was stepped on), the kites held up to fly another day. The children will be asked to give some thought to how they performed and what changes they would make to improve flying performance.

For the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, this project started out with a teacher's proposal that students design their own kites and then evaluate why they did or did not work. We found that students may need concrete examples to get them started in the design process.

Diesterwegg's precepts as described by Educational Sloyd were that you start with the known and then move toward the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

Students will now have a better chance of designing their own kites, having started with easy, from the known, from the simple, and from the concrete. It is extremely difficult to start out designing something from the mind alone.

The formula for success is easy, and was described by Otto Salomon in the Teacher's Guide to Educational Sloyd, much more than a hundred years ago. Who would suspect that education at large would learn anything at all from Manual Arts? But the manual arts suggest the way we all learn, and the way that education could best be planned.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

skiffs on Ozarks at Large.

Yesterday Ozarks at Large on public radio station KUAF broadcast a news segment about the making and launch of our Bevins Skiffs.

NPR editor Jacqueline Froelich visited the school as the boats were under construction. She interviewed some of our students and then attended on launch day for more interviews.  As a dedicated reporter Jacquie brought her own Kayak to be on the water with the kids.

The idea in building the boats is simply that we learn best by doing real things. If those real things can be planned to be of benefit to our communities, the students learn that they are important in the scheme of things. By doing diverse things, students discover their own skills and inclinations, as well as their hopes and are thereby led forward from within.

Today in the wood shop, my middle school students will be working on bird houses and my lower elementary school students will be making things from their own imaginations.

We will be applying more paint to the Bevins skiffs on Friday.

Make, fix, create and nourish the notion that others may learn likewise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

you can can't you?

Yesterday my high school students hammered copper into thin sheets, turned rings on the lathe, painted oversized scrabble squares, and did other things of their own creative inclination.

Weather permitting, we will return to painting boats on Friday. All of my students love "free days" best when they are allowed to work on the things that come from their own imaginations. I prepare stock, provide tools, and watch over for safe use of both. In addition, my upper elementary school kids, with my help, added bow strings and bridle strings to their kites.

I am concerned that as more and more learning is shifted from real life observation to flat screen, students are becoming less reliant on themselves, and more on externalized expertise. They ask, "Show me this." or "Do this for me." With the insistence, "I can't." And based on my conversations with educators at all levels (even college) this seems to have become the pattern in the digital age.

Along with making things comes a sense of oneself and the ability to intuit the truth from among right and wrong answers. I have of course, written about this before:

An old man or woman can learn to read, do it quite well, and enjoy it, but it is more challenging to keep creativity and the willingness to experiment in tact beyond the Kindergarten years (originally ages 3-8). That should be the focus of learning in school.

While planning for my Viking chest Class at ESSA in collaboration with Arkansas blacksmith Bob Patrick, I share the lovely image from the Cloisters, showing a painted chest with hand forged hardware.

Make, fix and create, while assisting others to learn lifewise.

Monday, April 16, 2018

sliding top top box...

I am documenting some of my projects at school in the hopes of sharing them with teachers, parents, and their children. This box shown is a box to hold and display hand-made wooden tops.

Today in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, my upper elementary school students will finish their kites. My high school students will continue working on independent projects and my lower elementary school students will continue working on toys and super heroes. Perhaps some will want to make a box.

Children are hard wired to learn and evolution has fitted them with the powers to do so. That power is most efficiently and effectively mobilized through play.  Parents and teachers have the duty to assist them in this enterprise.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

a lesson in knots.

Our lower elementary school teacher at Clear Spring has prepared a lesson in knots for his students to follow using sections of large rope. Not only will this lesson help to develop hand/eye coordination, it will develop spatial sense, and impart a practical skill and greater confidence. Would you "knot" enjoy knowing a variety of knots and their best use? Many adults are puzzled when it  comes to choosing the right knot, and even more puzzled when it comes to tying them.

Knot tying opens a whole world of connections.

On Monday we will be putting the bow strings and bridle strings on the upper elementary school student's kites. All should know how to tie basic knots, so perhaps the lessons learned by the younger students will be passed on. In fact, the lower elementary school students will be teaching knot tying to the older students at the spring camp out, using the supplies you see in the photo. The ropes were supplied by a parent who works in the zip line industry. For safety, the ropes used for zip lining must be periodically replaced and either discarded or put to less strenuous use.

The problem with teaching knots and knot tying is that a close view is necessary to see what is happening in a very small space between the fingers. Knot tying using string is hard to demonstrate to a whole class so the big ropes are a good idea, and with the children teaching knot tying to each other, each will receive individual practice and instruction. There's no better way to learn and learn well than to teach what you are learning to another.

You might wonder what children in schools should be learning?
Of course reading and math are important. But so are other skills pertaining to the real world. Friedrich Froebel, prior to inventing Kindergarten, engaged his students in making nets tied from string, which were then used in nature study to capture fish and small birds for close examination.  In Finnish Schools in the 19th and early 20th centuries, students made lace that is still shown to special guests in a museum at the University of Helsinki.

Yesterday I assembled 30 small drawers to fit 6 small 5 drawer jewelry chests.

Make, fix, create assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

dissolving the rigid boundaries of self.

The great illusion is that idea that each thing is separate from each other thing, when in fact all things are interconnected in both time and space. While naming things as individual items, or persons as individual beings offers convenience, that process hides from us, the reality of who and what we are.

For Friedrich Froebel, a large part of the purpose of education was to lead the child beyond him or her self, into the matrix of greater reality, Interconnectedness. Who am I, where am it, and how are we connected to each other are important concerns.

These days in education, the assumption is made that if a child can read, distinguish between words,  and add up the numbers of separate things, all is done. I assert that a child's education is only half baked if he or she is not brought full circle. Froebel used the songs and finger games of "Mother Play" to bring children into a full understanding and appreciation of community life.

The image in this post is an example. The lowly charcoal maker in a 19th century German town would have been a person children would be frightened of. He looked different and dirty and may have come from a lower class than the gentile folk. And yet Froebel celebrated the charcoal maker in heroic terms.

Yesterday I met with members of our local Democratic Party to finalize our preliminary documents for the local Democratic Party Platform. Having completed that task, we began brainstorming about ideals... not those things that are attainable at the present time, but those things that we might strive for as goals for humanity. We discussed the ways that we may serve each other through the instrument we call government. A very first step is what we're missing. To discover that we are interconnected parts of a single being is not something that some may ever be willing to admit. But returning Kindergarten to its proper place in our educational endeavors might lead us forward.

Today I will be working in my own shop on small jewelry chests of drawers that I set aside to do other things.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

rock solid...

Today a class in beginning woodworking with Steve Palmer begins at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

I am working on the last photo for my box guitar article in Woodcraft magazine. The art director and editor wanted a photo showing some of the less common tools and supplies necessary to complete the project.

From the top clockwise and centered around the fret marking template and fret saw, are tuners, fret wire in 8 in. lengths, small files for fitting strings over the bridge and nut, and the shop made 1/8 in. chisel I used to fit the nut into the neck.

There are days in which I have little to say, having already said the same things time and again about education: that it is necessary to have education hands on to have the greatest lasting effect. While I was in Hot Springs to make a presentation to the Hot Springs Village Woodworking Club, our upper elementary school and middle school students were there also. Their reasons for the  trip were to study geology (among other things, and they found lots and lots of quartz crystals for which the area is known. They and their teachers are off today in recovery. Each student will have a collection of beautiful crystals they will have pocketed from their adventure.

Reshaping education to fit the hands and to thereby better fit the minds of our kids is no easy task. But the idea is rock solid, in that children who have learned by doing real things are better equipped to take on the challenges of real life. Wood shop is an excellent way to introduce reality into a child's education. It may take all of us, an army of volunteers, perhaps, to assure that children have the opportunity to make beautiful and lasting expressions of learning and growth.

Make, fix and create.... Insist that others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.