Thursday, May 24, 2018

the celebration of the child.

This is the last day of the 2017-18 school year at the Clear Spring School. The kids are a bit sad to have the school year end. When you are having fun learning with friends, you feel strongly about school, in the good way.

I spent much of the day yesterday clearing and cleaning, and sending things home, but not before launching a new middle school project for next year, and helping students make a few more wooden skates.

The annual end of year program at the Clear Spring School is called "the Celebration of the Child." There will be skits and musical performances, and the presentation of awards of special recognition. Each and every child receives an award based on the special qualities of character they've demonstrated during the year.

The items shown are one student's woodwork from the last few weeks of school, ready to take home. The items include a bluebird house, a cane, a piece of turned wood and a sling shot.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

reading buddies

I keep telling folks that the best time to visit the Clear Spring School is either the 10:15 morning recess or at the 12:15 lunch recess. At either of these times you'll find our students engaged in play... and for sure, play is the most effective way of learning. You will also find that when  the kids are arriving for the day at 8:15, there is joyfulness afoot. Our kids, grades 1-12, play with each other, and there is so much joy expressed that you'll envy staff members who witness it every day.

In the early days of manual arts training, it was argued by those against it that the time invested in hands-on learning would detract from academic studies. It was soon proven that was not the case. The manual arts refreshed the attitude toward learning to the degree that academic pursuits were accomplished in less time.

Of course there is more going on at Clear Spring School than play.  If you are not here at recess you'll find learning taking place with an equal amount of enthusiasm. Reading is an example. Just as our student play together, regardless of age, they buddy up for reading, too.  Our students pair up to read to each other. The process leads to growth on both ends.

Allow me to suggest that manual arts can lead the way, both in kids making stuff, and in providing a philosophy of teaching. For teachers, the less they do, the more students learn. The more students are driven by internal compulsion, the better they are directed toward lifelong learning.

I should explain that. If I prepare parts for students to assemble like a kit rather than supplying tools and materials, inspiration  and encouragement, I would be busy making parts and my students would not be learning how to do things for themselves. If I was telling the kids what to do rather than allowing them to learn from their own internal guidance, they would develop less self-reliance and intrinsic motivation.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we made sling shots. The project began when one boy started making one last week. It was obvious that there were some things about sling shots, based on what I saw him making that he did not understand how they worked or what parts would be required. I asked him where he learned about sling shots and he said, "a video game." I learned that he had never seen a sling shot in real life. He did not know that it required a pouch to hold the object that's to be shot.

I helped him with making a leather pouch, and then helped him to get the rubber bands he had wrapped uselessly on the wood into a useful arrangement. That of course led to the other boys (and some girls) wanting sling shots of their own.

What will we be as a culture when most of our information about life comes in digital doses of meaningless abstraction? Are you folks worried about that?

I am busy writing end of year reports for my students and classes. Today I will begin cleaning the wood shop at the Clear Spring School so that I can turn my attention toward summer classes at ESSA, The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, and Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

There are still spaces available in these schools for your participation.

Make, fix, and create. Allow for others to learn likewise.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The King Arthur Flour Bakery: Artisans at Work

Yesterday at Books in Bloom, Martin Phillip, author, banjo player and baker with King Arthur Flour was with us to give readings from his book, Breaking Bread. We had other fine authors as well, but meeting Martin Phillip was a special treat. A video of Martin and fellow bakers at work can be found here:

Martin is a big believer in the hands.  As Martin says, "It is the human that comes in and makes it something special." The wisdom of the hands is not just about wood working. It comes in many forms and "literally" touches all of human life.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

no need for a bogus quote...

Yesterday evening I heard a radio program announcer use the following quote in his rapturous support of the arts in school: “When Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’” Churchill, according to extensive research never said such a thing, but the bogus quote once launched circles round and could come back and bite. Who needs made up stuff?

He did actually say, “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” Churchill was in fact a painter.

But do we need to rely upon the expertise of others to see that which is actually at hand? Are educational policy makers dumb or what? Can we not see and bear witness to the power of our hands and the arts and meaning they create? And then make the adjustments necessary to place the arts and science at the center of education?

I was not held captive by the royal wedding yesterday, but I did take time to listen and watch the young American cellist playing at the end of the ceremony. Are we to be given such beauty in life if we do not take time and invest in such things as music, wood shop, and the other arts?

The drawing is one I did to show the immature hammer grip of a child. As he or she learns, grows and gains strength, the hand will move down the shaft to give greater force.

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I had a successful White St. Art Walk, selling boxes and visiting with friends.

Yesterday my high school students painted more on the Bevin's Skiff, bringing them nearly to a point of completion.  The students have taken great pride in them and their work as you can see.

Jerome Bruner and others have talked about education as being a process of scaffolding. Bruner's concept of scaffolding comes from his recognition that the development of human intellect is sustained by an external skeleton as described below:
“(a) Human’s use of mind is dependent upon her/his ability to develop and use tools or instruments or technologies that make it possible for him to express and amplify her/his powers”
Scaffolds in the building trades are constructed of light weight components that allow workers to safely reach heights beyond the safety of ladders. The idea of scaffolding is an apt metaphor for what we would like to happen in schools.

Of what is the educational scaffold made? Here is an idea. Experience, what the child already knows, forms the foundation from which inquiry takes place. Technology plays a part, as Einstein said, "My pencil and I are smarter than I am." You can think of the computer as the pencil on steroids. The teacher plays his or her part as a pry bar, attempting to inspire, challenge and steady the child's climb. A fourth component has to do with the school culture. Does it support an atmosphere of inquiry, of creativity and creative expression for teachers and students alike? If we had the fundamental materials of scaffold building on site, what wonders would we behold in American education! Can you see it from where you are? Use scaffolding to get a better view.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

white st.

I have set up a display of my work at the Lux Weaving Studio for the White St. Art Walk. It is one of the premier art events of the May Festival of the Arts. Join us this evening from 4-10 PM

This is a busy weekend. I am trying to help my students finish projects at school. My wife is getting ready for the Books in Bloom Literary Festival at the Crescent Hotel on Sunday. I will be there directing traffic.

The toy tank is one that I made as an example, based on similar toys my students have made in the past. Having seen it as an example, some of my students now want to make them. It works that way. What they see they want to make. The physical object tells them what they need that with experience tells them what to do next. What they make may not end up looking like mine after their own creativity is launched. Attention to the relationship between the concrete and the abstract is a useful tool in planning lessons and learning. When kids do real things in school, no test is required as the real learning is self evident in what they've done.

It is a lovely day today to finish painting our Bevins Skiffs. We will do that.

Make, fix, create, and adjust learning so that all students have the opportunity to learn likewise.