Saturday, April 21, 2018

paint and tangles...

Yesterday my high school students applied more paint to our Bevins Skiffs, and my elementary school students ran with their kites until their strings were tangled in knots. Some of the kites will need new paper skins and to be rebuilt from the sticks up. Having exhausted themselves in play the students may not have energy for that.

I'm hoping that we all learned a few things. Not everything can be put in words. We form catalogs of ideas from which solutions are drawn. If you've been engaged doing things in the real world, you may actually have a leg up in discerning the truth from that which is false. In multiple choice tests, one may be able to intuit the right answer by being able to recognize the answers that are discernibly false, so those who have been brought up in the real world, doing real things have an advantage that has been measured and proven by educational research.

German Field Marshal Rommel was said to have fingerspitzengefuhl, which means knowledge even in his fingertips. It was said that he had an intimate grasp of the full field of battle in his head because his knowledge came from a deep engagement in real life. His advantage came from having both Wissenshaft (book knowledge) and Kentniss (knowledge derived from actual experience). And so it is on the latter side of things that modern education fails to produce effective learning.

Early advocates of manual arts training insisted that taking time for manual arts refreshed the mind, making it more ready for books, whereas those who insisted schools were only for the basics of reading and writing, insisted there was no time for such luxurious things as music, the arts and woodshop.

We learn best when our hands are engaged and not quite so much of the mouth is used. "Chronic diarrhea of exhortation" was Jonathan Baldwin Turner's description of the classic form of education where the teacher stands at the head of the class and spews words for all he's worth. He stated in his Griggsville address, May, 1850:
There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose."
Turner http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2012/10/land-grant-and-mechanic-arts.html was considered the father of the land grant college, and all the great, large state schools in the US are indebted to him for promoting the legislation that created them.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

this day...

This day promises to be lovely for painting boats, so first thing, I'll get the sanding blocks ready and paint stirred. A donor is supplying water testing kits that she will deliver to school today. Those will be used to test the water in local lakes.

A question came up whether to use student labor in wood shop to do fundraising projects. In the past, we've made some things to sell and raise money for our travel school program. But we must not wander far from student interest, and student learning. To use the wood shop as a fund raising tool must be based on a strong expression of interest from the students and my fellow teachers. Otherwise I'm put in the position of task master, quality controller, and cajoler, while students drag feet and miss opportunities for more effective, joyful learning.

If student interest is not present, learning will not be at full force. Joy is the measure. It's what you see when interest and learning are present in equal measure. We saw that on our first kite testing day.  (see photo) We'll see it again today as our students return to the field with longer kite strings attached.

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

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.

  http://kuaf.com/post/high-school-woodworking-class-fabricates-ecological-surveillance-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: http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2011/12/what-difference-does-it-make.html

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.