Tuesday, October 17, 2017

viking chest...

The Viking chest prototype is ready for a bottom to be fitted and for hardware to be adapted to fit. Bob Patrick left the hardware un-quenched so that it will be malleable and can be bent to the curvature of the lid. He also left the hole drilling for me so that I can choose where to put the hand forged nails he made to hold the hardware in place. In next summer's ESSA class, students will make the chest and hardware in the wood and metals shops.

Today I plan a quiet day in the wood shop.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

hidden splines...

Yesterday, in addition to trying to re-conceptualize the Wisdom of the Hands book, I prepared for another article in Fine Woodworking and the visit of an editor from that magazine in two weeks. This article will be about the hidden spline joint, as in the box shown, that will serve as a prop in the article to illustrate the finished joint.

I have yet to sand the outside and apply Danish oil to brighten the color of the woods. I will also add a lining so that it can be sold when the article is complete. The hidden spline joint gives great strength to the corners of a box, and does nothing to interfere with the grain pattern on the outside. If working with wood like this quartersawn white oak, the hidden spline joint can be the perfect choice. Making the hidden spline from a contrasting wood brings emphasis to the craftsmanship involved in forming the joint, and in this case, I chose walnut to match the top panel and lift tab.

In the wood shop at the Clear Spring School today, I will continue reading the manual for building a Bevins skiff to my high school students.

Nearly all of us, whether we are graduates of high school, or college, or hold advanced
degrees have in excess of 13 years of formal education under our belts. For some
education is a story of success, for some it is a story of frustration and failure. Some are led
by their experience to regard themselves as having great expertise, and some
are led to regard themselves as lacking in any sort of expertise whatever. That is the
accepted standard. Some win, some lose and education serves as a sorting process,
pushing some on a path toward college and some off the path entirely. In
America, we make too few allowances for late bloomers. Children do not all develop on the same schedule, and some of the damage done in schooling is never corrected.

There has been this idea that the digital world, and particularly digital devices in school would open up new worlds of efficient and effective education. That has proven to NOT be the case. Given digital technology, kids play with it. The do not learn. This link tells the sad story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dont-like-your-kids-tethered-to-screens-at-school-why-not-ask-questions/2017/10/15/f1c37e78-aecf-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html The article suggests that:
“the new digital world is a toxic environment for the developing minds of young people. Rather than making digital natives superlearners, it has stunted their mental growth.”
Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

my day (as planned)

Today I am revisiting my materials for the production of a Wisdom of the Hands Book, as I have no other writing projects to attend to.

Have you ever noticed just how much you use your hands—touching, gripping, sorting, folding, pressing or wiping with them? Exploring textures, gauging hot or cold, wet or dry? Holding and manipulating an object? Whether they are pointing, picking, pinching, smoothing or soothing—the list goes on and on—our hands are rarely at rest. Even when we speak, our hands are engaged, drawing out our words and phrases with gestures that give added dimension and emphasis to our thoughts.

In fact, our hands perform an astounding array of discrete actions each day. It’s no exaggeration to say that every facet of human existence, from the artifacts that inhabit and enrich our daily lives to our grandest cultural achievements, was touched by human hands. And yet, we rarely notice.

From one perspective, this is no problem: we function more efficiently when some of our hand skills, practiced from birth, are employed automatically and unconsciously. But because our hands are so closely integrated with our brains and so seamlessly responsive to our thoughts, we tend to overlook and underestimate their greater significance in shaping our individual lives, our culture, and our society. Even more, in America today, we intentionally eschew handwork, preferring the remote-controlled or battery-operated instead. We design things that are “easier to use”— meaning, without manual effort or skill—when those efforts and skills are in fact what can offer the greatest pleasure and growth of intelligence and character and are the building blocks of a meaningful life.

We also design our children’s schools to be hands-off environments, where the eyes and ears are engaged but the hands are too often required to remain in the lap. As a result, we have created an educational divide between hand and mind, emphasizing academics and relegating arts and crafts, if they are presented at all, as extracurricular activities. This bias persists into our society at large, ignoring or disparaging the value of the hands’ contributions to economy and culture.

Worse, is that by leaving the development of skilled hands to be something apart from schooling, we have closed doors for our kids, that open would have given cause for deeper engagement and lifelong confidence in learning.

Hopefully the book will go on from there (and from here). What I had at first intended was a philosophical treatise. It is a thing I've been trying to get my head around for 18 years. I've begun to realize that much of what's needed is a clear path of instruction on how to get going with it. Philosophy alone is not enough.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The age of distraction.

Yesterday in wood shop, my high school students were at work as I began reading to them from the instruction manual for the Bevins skiff. Some were finishing their models of the Bevins skiff. I had noticed that they had been talking to each other about things unrelated to woodworking and found that reading to them was a way to bring them into a common focus. I will do that again.

Fellow woodworking teacher and author Gary Rogowski has a new book coming out called "Handmade: Creative Focus in the age of distraction" and I became interested in where the term "age of distraction" came from, as I'd been hearing it a lot lately.

Joseph Urgo published a book "In the Age of Distraction" in 2000, describing the adverse effects of technology. That may be the first use of the term, unless something earlier comes up. Do you believe that digital devices are eroding your memory and ability to concentrate for any long period of time? Unless you actually attempt to do real things in the world, that require patience and skill you may never know.

 I have a Clear Spring School board meeting today and will then resume work on a Viking chest in the afternoon. Working with the hands slows one down, and allows one to observe more closely. There is much to be said about being contemplative as an alternative to being distracted.

The hand forged lock shown above is one that I bought as a souvenir in Sweden, and one that would look great on a Viking tool chest.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to learn lifewise.

Friday, October 13, 2017

hand forged hardware.

I received a hasp, hinges, handles and nails from blacksmith Bob Patrick, to fit on the oak Viking chest I started last week. Now it's up to me to finish the chest and take photos for a summer class.

Today I have high school students only, as my middle school and elementary school students are off and recovering from their camping trip. Teachers, too, are recovering with a day off.

I am studying the use of a router to cut scarf joints in plywood, in preparation for building Bevins skiffs. The material comes in 8 foot lengths, and 12 foot is required.

The photo shows the array of hand forged hardware items I received in yesterday's mail.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

whittling in camp...

Yesterday I took knives and whittling supplies to Withrow Springs State Park to give Clear Spring School students on the fall campout some instruction in whittling. I also took a set of spoon carving knives even though the task of carving a spoon requires greater strength in hand and more skill than most small children have. Some wanted to try, and while intelligence and strength are not the same thing, both are complimentary powers in the whole child.

The Clear Spring School camping experience is one of learning to take care of each other, as individual children are testing themselves in an experience beyond the school walls and in nature.

How do we help members of our society to understand the value of taking care of and for each other while also taking pride in themselves? I was thinking last night about how it is important that we frame our debates over such things as guns and healthcare in terms that help us to understand our responsibilities and interconnectedness. For instance, I think it is a mistake when the Democrats claim that health care should be a right. Good health is a gift, not a right. We give it to ourselves to some degree. We may be lucky enough to find it sustained in our communities, in our environment or in our family genetics. Some may not be so lucky. We may claim a greater share of it through attention to regular healthcare, good exercise and diet.

The care we give to each other is also a gift and not a right. But then, what does it say of us (and who we are) if we fail to give that gift to those among us who are in need? If we choose not to use the government (our most powerful instrument of collective strength) to be of service to others, what kind of nation have we chosen for ourselves, and what kind of people are we?

I guess our nation has not decided about that.

When will we begin to understand that a large part of schooling is about caring for each other, about working out the small problems that may come up, and beginning to feel as though we each and all are a part of much larger things? And that we have responsibilities to care for each other!

If you look at politics in the US right this minute, you may find that many of those lessons were not learned. And the shame is on us. We do not give to each other only because there are needs, but because we also have a need to serve, and we will never be whole without having made a sincere and unrestrained effort to be of service to others.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

camping

From the Catholic Catechism:
"Virtue: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
There is a marked difference between the artificial world of "virtual reality" and the practice of virtue, which demands the search for truth, and beauty and requires becoming worthy of praise through service to both family and community. Woodworking in school provides a resource for the exploration of virtue.

Reader René asked if we need a new way to measure the effectiveness of schooling. If you are standing in front of a classroom, it is hard to determine whether students are engaged enough to actually understand what you are lecturing about. That's why they developed pop quizzes, tests, and standardized distractions.

But if the students are busy doing real things, or have the opportunity to do so, you can easily witness their level of engagement and skill. If engaged they are learning, and often at a level that suits their learning needs. Can engagement be measured? For those who think measurement is necessary, the following link helps to explain what is called the Student Engagement Instrument. http://checkandconnect.umn.edu/research/engagement.html

Today I have a piece of new equipment arriving at ESSA, and in the afternoon will take whittling knives to Withrow Springs State Park where our students, grades 1 through 8 will be camping overnight. The experiences that students have in real life may be challenging to measure, but have profound effect.

The knives in the photo are spoon carving knives, that I made and plan to re-harden and re-handle to take advantage of having learned to do better.

Make, fix, create, and increase the opportunities for students to learn lifewise.