Thursday, October 02, 2014

making birdies...

Yesterday, my elementary school students began making wooden birds, as part of their study of ornithology.

Randall sent a link on "How to avoid a fully automated future." So much has already been automated, that there is no turning back. But there are rewards of the spirit, character and intellect that come from doing things by hand. It is important to talk about such things as we make individual decisions concerning how we want to live and as we may influence others.

The point is not to shut down the digital age, but rather to simply rejoice in what we can do by hand if we make an investment in practice and skill. Everything digital is designed to make easy what had been hard and that required skill. But doing difficult things well is the foundation from which human character and intelligence are nourished and grown.

In the meantime, if you watch cable or satellite TV, you will have seen more than enough reality TV. There are cooking shows, travel shows, Naked and Afraid (folks attempting to survive in the wilderness without clothes), and every kind of show anyone has imagined thus far. Take your choice. There are shows about Swamp People, Pawn Stars, junk dealers and Ice Road Truckers.  YOu can watch extreme helicopter logging if you like. It used to be that folks would watch woodworking with Norm or some fishing show to get a dose of reality, but now the offerings are expanded over 100 fold... which I guess means more folks watching TV. You know the old adage, "I just love work. I can sit here and watch it all day."

What does this tell us about our fully automated future? It tells us that it has gotten easier to produce video, and cheap, too. But that people are still drawn to real things and the actions required to contend with the physical world.  But, I have always found it better to watch my own hands at work than to waste time on TV. In the wood shop (and having spent years in practice) I can make products with useful beauty, that I've been able to sell and support my family. And I can assure you that it there are feelings of pride and pleasure when you look back through the process, and behold what you have done. Does anyone having watched TV ever derive a sense of accomplishment from it?

The sketchup illustration below shows the process of cuts for making birdies. Shaping with rasp and sanding strips comes next, then wings and stand will come next week. You can click on the image to see it in a larger size. The dimensions given are approximate.

cutting the parts for wooden birdies
I am also getting ready for Eureka Palooza, an open house on Friday, and the kick-off to the celebration of Clear Spring School's 40th anniversary.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

expression as a measure of educational entanglement...

Yesterday as I walked across the CSS campus, I was corralled by elementary school students asking, "please watch our play." They assured me it would be short, as it was just the first act and more would come later.

Another teacher and I watched as each played their part. It involved a bit of poison in a bottle (represented on "stage" by a rock) and a villain who hid behind a bush.

Some of the parts played by the first graders were hard to hear, but the action told all, and as this was a performance worked out by them during recess, it can serve as an example of the kinds of developmental expression that takes place when children are left in control of themselves and empowered to create in an atmosphere of trust...

My drawing above is to show a proper balance between teacher guidance and student expression. Expression is the measure of a child's educational entanglement. Yesterday, I gave my upper level kids some more instruction in sketchup. I taught them how to make spheres, but of course making spheres did not stop there. Before I knew it, they had poked through the surfaces with the eraser tool and were wondering how they might then design the insides. One student designed a ring, asking if he could then actually make it with the school's 3-d printer. That will come later.

In any case, one of the ways children are restrained from engagement in learning, is that of keeping them at arms length. We do children and our future no favors by stifling their expression.

Today in the school woodshop, my elementary school students will be making wooden birds.

In my home shop, my boxes are assembled and ready to rout, sand and finish.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

hands on science...

Yesterday I watched for a few minutes as our science teacher worked with the younger group of our elementary school students. We've started the year with the whole school engaged in the study of ornithology, so in wood shop students have whittled bird wings, and last week we made bird feeders with the 4th grade students.

Our school is on a 4 year rotation, studying earth, air, fire and water, as organizational themes, one year at a time, and this is the year of air. The Greek ellements lead you to an understanding of the complexity of life. Is a tree of the earth or of the air or of water? If you put it in the fire does it burn? And yet, the Greek materials scheme lends itself to the notion that each year at school needs not be routine, but can be fresh and alive with new things and as the teachers engage in collaboration. around a central theme.

Our students' own museum of eggs and nests.
The young ones as shown in the photo were studying bird eggs and painting their own to match those of the wild birds in our area. So each had a small clutch of eggs they had shaped from modeling clay, and were painting them to correspond with those of the bird of their choice. The point of course is not that at some point in later life they will become professional bird egg makers as silly as that might seem, but that they become entangled as observers of the natural world, and begin using their minds in the classification of things.

I cannot imagine a parent in the whole world who would not want this kind of schooling for their kids. It is not just my own program that makes Clear Spring School so special. The hands touch all, and we keep getting better at it.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Academization of Science...

academize [uh-kad-uh-mahyz]
Word Origin verb (used with object), academized, academizing.
1. to reduce (a subject) to a rigid set of rules, principles, precepts, etc.
as in: "futile attempts to academize the visual arts."
Also, especially British, academise.

NPR ran a series of reports on the fact that major Universities have large research laboratories that are underutilized or idle. There has been a serious shortfall in funding for research. big universities built big labs, hoping for big money, but big results often come from those who are under less ideological and economic constraint.

I am also concerned that  the academization of science is leading students away from the field, when the need for student interest in science is greatest and the problems the world faces due to global warming, the growth of populations and lack of adequate food and clean water threaten our civilization.

Can you imagine students sitting in classes to study physics and chemistry when their hands should be busy making the connections between mind and physical reality that will engage them in a lifetime of investigation? Look no further than the American classroom, whether in pre-school or college to see that scenario come true. While laboratories are underutilized, students are getting more theory and less practice.

This summer in a Paris museum I visited a display from Lavoisier's original chemistry laboratory. It was a good reminder that work can be done in small spaces by single individuals that can change the world.

We have a desperate need to get students entangled in science. And so, how are we to do that?
"Theory," says Vives,"is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand, is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility."
So why is practice of "immense utility?" Practice is the engagement in process that leads to educational entanglement. When kids these days learn about science in schooling, they are kept at arms length. In contrast,when they do science, hands-on, they become entangled in it and seek the opportunity to do more. It is the same with art, with music, and with the industrial arts. It's why all children need hands-on learning.

Academicians take an academic view of education. That's why those who choose to become teachers are forced to spend three years in the study of theory before they stand before a real class of live students and test themselves in their chosen field for the first time. Those with greater experience would have the students practice as they learn theory in almost the same breath.  And those who would like to empower science would put tools and instruments in the hands of kids and set them to work and investigation.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

sufficiently entangled...

One of the objects of schooling can be made clear from a study of modern physics. The theory of quantum entanglement suggests that our conception of the essential building blocks of reality is not as simple as the academic and theoretical view would lead us to assume. Electrons are not swirling around protons and neutrons in perfect orbits, but rather exist in wave like forms that contain vibratory information that describes their relationships to external reality. Within the waves are subwaves and micro-subwaves that carry what might be called information or might in some stretch of faith be called consciousness.  I will refer my readers to yesterday's post which included a short video on quantum entanglement.

In the age of Newtonian physics, human brains were objects that existed in isolation from the hands, and other extremities. While slow to adapt, we are now beginning to realize that human consciousness exhibits qualities more closely related to quantum mechanics than to the apple that fell to the earth in Newton's discovery of (the laws) of gravity. (which had always been present, even before Newton)

If you realize that a guitar string is simply a relationship between patterns of particle like waves under tension drawn between the bridge and tuning pegs, that is able thence when plucked to create patterns of waves that thence vibrate in the air to create sound, take that same situational awareness and apply it to the solar system. You can see how suppositions as outlandish to some scientists as Astrology might actually have real effect, as planets and objects within the solar system form tensions within each molecule and each atom, altering waves within. No single thing in the universe, no matter how small and insignificant is without effect.

I am aware that few people read anymore to any great depth, so I am attempting to keep this short and simple.

The object of a teacher's work is that of helping his students to become sufficiently and consciously entangled in learning. This is where the hands are brought in to their full capacity. The purpose of this blog is stated at the top and as follows:
"This blog is dedicated to sharing the concept that our hands are essential to learning-- that we engage the world and its wonders, sensing and creating primarily through the agency of our hands. We abandon our children to education in boredom and intellectual escapism by failing to engage their hands in learning and making."
There are a number of ways teachers can get children engaged. The easiest is to grant them the opportunity to do real things. Music will often suffice. Making beautiful and useful objects will point students in the right direction. Asking them to dissect a fish or a frog and discern the realities hidden deep beneath the surface within may reveal an interest in learning, entangling the student in his or her own curiosities and lead to a discovery of the interconnectedness of all things

This morning I intend to make boxes. I am cutting slots for barbed hinges and just trying to hinge and assemble enough boxes to ship an order next week, leaving the balance to assemble for orders later in the season. While I am in my shop, and though it might seem so, I do not exist in a form isolated from all else.

This weekend,  Northwest Arkansas has been overwhelmed by an event called Bikes, Blues and BBQ which brought nearly half a million bikers to buzz through our streets and down through our hollers, where their loud pipes echo and reverberate for miles. Even the sound of a motorcycle can effect every vibratory component of our existence. The bikers were drinking in our pubs late into the night,  then managed their retreat into  motels and campground to sleep it off. We welcome their money, both in the bars and motels but could do without their noise.  In my shop, I am grateful when I turn off the power tools and can work by hand and in near silence. I cannot quite understand why they would choose such loud pipes, except that in their educations, they were not introduced to the full depth of their entanglements.

Now, it seems the roar of loud pipes has subsided,to a lower volume, telling me that the half million bikers are making their way safely home.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

hands-on learning group

I invite my readers to join the hands-on learning group at Linked-In where a current discussion has been lively.

I have been having intense dreams of late, and know that dreams are suggestive of the interrelation of all things. You can wrestle to find deeper meaning, but the most I draw from them is that we are related to each other and to the fabric of life in ways that we cannot fully understand. The dream state may offer an alternate view of what we experience in life, from the vantage  point of the unconscious rather than conscious mind. Human thought and perception  are "entangled" in the same manner as is the world of quantum mechanics. 

Just because we are unable consciously to discern relationships, does not mean that the relationships do not exist.

For example Polynesians were able to navigate between islands over great distances by observing wave patterns which were created by waves passing around various islands as shown in the drawing below.
The waves formed patterns of interference that described their positions in relation to the islands even though those islands were far out of sight. And yet, non-Polynesians could not believe that they could understand position by simply watching the interactions between the waves that the boat passed through.

When you understand that all things exist in two forms, expressing both materiality and relationship, you can begin to understand what Otto Salomon said of the students' work. He said the value of the carpenter's work is in the object made,  but the value of the students' work is in the student. The young woman standing at the lathe is not just turning an object, she is turning herself into a craftsman with all the sensitivity to material and form that may entail.

 I ran across a word this morning, "botcher," which means one that fixes things, whereas the word botched refers to something that has been screwed up in the process of being fixed. A related British term is "bodger," which refers to a woodsman who uses traditional woodworking tools.

From Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, 1602:
Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend: for give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry; bid the dishonest man mend himself: if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him.
 With out doubt, the first time you try to fix something, you may botch the job. Give it a second go, and a third and a fourth and in time, and with care your artistry will emerge.  Again, I will be in the shop as much as possible today, making boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 26, 2014

fingers are smarter than people think...

My thanks to Ed Bronson for this interesting link, Your fingertips perform brain-like calculations. When I was still in college, a friend had noted that MY brains were in my hands, and that launched me on an exploration of the idea. It is my hope that this blog alerts others to the true source of their intelligence.

Today I continued making boxes. I've inlaid dozens and am nearing the point of hinging and assembly.

Also, we are preparing for the 40th anniversary celebration for Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...