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.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The "hand basket"

Are we there yet? Here's a list:
Global warming.
Economic injustice.
Police violence.
Political polarization.
Economic collapse.
Anger, fear, anxiety and depression on the uptick.

On the other hand, the hands allow us to take direct action toward the alleviation of each thing. Were we not taught to take care of each other?

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

Friday, June 26, 2020


I've been assembling new equipment for the Clear Spring School wood shop. We have a new planer, a new dust collector and a new small drill press that will be dedicated to making wheels. Each requires assembly. 

It's fun, reading and following instructions, finding where each screw or bolt goes and putting it in place. I was stopped in my assembly of the dust collector yesterday by the weight of one of the components. It was just too heavy for me to lift and position on my own. So friends. We count on them. We'll mask up, take care and lift the component into place. 

The new tools will make us better able to do materials preparation in the school shop... some of which I'd been doing in my own wood shop, and allow for my replacement by another teacher when that time comes.

Do we plan for such things? Yes, in a  time of coronavirus and coming change, we must.

With cases rising again across the US, and folks who think their own right to flaunt safe health practices is greater than the necessity of protecting the health of their families, communities, and the economy, we are in very deep trouble.

But, human beings have a tendency to rise anew from troubled times. And so we are entering a period of adjustment. 

I am reminded always of this quote from Jean Jacques Rousseau... 
"Put a young man in a wood shop, his hands will benefit his brain. He will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman."
There's some serious meat in that quote... Meat you can gnaw right off the bone if you can understand  first that it applies to women as well as to men. Working with our hands makes light work for the mind. It allows for the intrusion of other things to clarify the workings of thought. One thing about the quote that appeals to me is the word, "only." It implies a sense of humility. Like the glass that's half full, it is not pretentious. It admits humility, and with humility, we have the opportunity to learn a few things.

And so these are uncertain times. We, together, will make the best of what ails us.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Religiosity and Faith...

One of the hazards of formal education comes when teachers or administrators use education as an authoritarian means to attempt to control the beliefs of small children. Froebel had grown up as the neglected son of a Lutheran minister, and discovered his own faith by wandering the Thuringen forest. 

By observing nature and life directly rather than by merely assimilating what is told to us by others, we develop faith. When there's real faith, belief becomes a distraction from the accuracy of observation. 

Froebel's faith led him to examine the role of mothers in the education of their children and led him then to devise a method of schooling that trusted the sensory engagement of the child to guide learning and growth through self-activity. 

The teacher's efforts were not to be directed toward shaping the child's beliefs, but rather to facilitate and encourage the child's creative expression and interconnectedness with all things.

There is a difference between religiosity and faith. Religious beliefs may require a teacher to demand something from her children. Faith allows the teacher to set up learning experiences for her pupils all the while clear in her trust that the children will draw what they need from real life, just as thousands of generations of children have done before. Faith requires freedom of consciousness while religion demands conformity. 

Creative craftsmanship, pure and simple, is a means through which children and adults can come to a better understanding of reality and find a clear basis for belief, faith and trust. Froebel had faith that given constructive learning experiences, the child would grow in harmony with family and community. That was similar to what Matti Bergstr?m called black games and white games and the consideration that children need to engage both certainty and possibility... allowing human culture to arise fresh within each subsequent generation. 

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Watching the oven door.

We had my daughter, her new husband, his brother, the brother's cat and the daughter and son-in-law's dog with us for 2 months and now they're safely back in New York. The coronavirus seems to be in better management status there, while heating up here due to people's itchiness to get back to more regular life and a refusal to understand the importance of wearing masks.

After our family had been with us for a couple weeks, our golden doodle, Rosie discovered there was a cat in the house. She would stand outside the bedroom trying to get a peek at our mysterious and reclusive houseguest. She decided that the front glass on the oven door was a window through which she might catch a glimpse of the mysterious cat.

Yesterday afternoon Rosie heard my daughter's voice on the phone and immediately went to the oven door, attempting to peak into the black glass. How can I explain to my wonderful pooch that the oven door is not a TV and that there's no Lucy there, no cat, no dog, and neither of the two bros?

It appears that we've given up on our own curiosity. We accept digital technology without questioning it. It might inspire more wonder than it does. For instance, "how does this stuff work?" Without asking that question and understanding at least a small part of it, we are somewhat in the dark no matter how much we feel ourselves to be on top of things.

In the early days of Educational Sloyd, students were to start with the very basics of their own lives, understanding the simple, easy, knowable, concrete phenomena and build in increments from there, so as to merge with greater understanding of place and purpose within the vast scheme of things. We've chosen instead to launch student learning with devices that are inexplicable. Even toddlers are given their parent's iPhones for amusement and distraction, with very little real learning taking place.

Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. Online instruction can lead to good things. But only if you break from it and test what you've learned in the real world, generating your own discoveries and turning your efforts toward service.

Let's put real tools in the hands of kids and allow them to journey forth.

A friend of mine, Jason Proulx, has an article and plan in the latest issue of the Lee Valley Newsletter. https://www.leevalley.com/archive/us/newsletters/woodworking/2936/newsletter.htm

Jason, a long time reader of this blog named his educational blog after the three words featured at the end of each of my blog posts, 

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Let's look at this...

Let's look at this. The photo shows a girl working at a woodworking bench in school in 1918, and as schools are almost never equipped with such things today, we must wonder where things went wrong. 

So what went wrong and how do we fix it? A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak at the Craft Organization Development Association's national convention. A woman came up to me after my talk to tell me that she had bought woodworking tools for her grandson, but that her daughter in law would not allow them in her house. She was afraid her son would make a mess in her home while the grandmother, knowing the value of the arts, and creative expression was afraid the mother was making a mess of her grandson. 

There has been a failure in getting folks in the general public to understand the nature and real benefits of creativity. Children develop both character and intellect when given the opportunity to create useful beauty to be shared with family and community. Please stand with me in launching a change of view. 

The public relations firm helping in the promotion of my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids is having a good response from woodworking clubs and magazines. You can help, too, by buying the book and sharing it with family and friends. Amazon is currently offering a special price, 3 for the price of two, meaning buy two and get one free. https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Woodworking-Kids-Projects-Lifelong/dp/1951217233/

Unlike tangible, tactile tools of the trade, digital devices give the false impression of creativity. We watch with wonder at what a toddler can do with an iPhone, neglecting to note that the creativity was coded and pre-formatted as an element of deception. Unless the child is doing the coding, no real creativity is taking place. 

Every classroom in America should have at least one woodworking bench. Even those classes at upper levels. It would serve at the very least, as a reminder that we are all have real work to do, making the world a better place.

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

Friday, June 19, 2020

ESSA on Facebook

This week on the Eureka Springs School of the Arts Facebook page, they're sharing some of my work in their series, #everyonesharesomeart. Tune in each day for more. 


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

Monday, June 15, 2020

open ended learning

I've been consulting on a project to develop subscription boxes for woodworking kids. The idea is that a parent subscribes to receive monthly packages of tools, materials, and instruction for their kids along with inspirational material that leads the child to engage in creative woodworking. 

One of the challenges is to develop projects that inspire open ended learning.

I walked by a display of kits at a Lowe's store the other day. The kits were not flying off the shelf. They are static. They are assembled with simple tools and with each part engineered to go in it's particular spot. This is not to tell you not to buy such things. Any woodworking is better than no woodworking at all. But projects must be designed to allow open ended creativity, for surprising consequences to be arrived at, and for the potential of failure and the exercise of plan B.

A fellow woodworking teacher on the East coast, whom I very much admire, compared my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids, to a book by an earlier author, Richard Starr. That's a compliment of the first order.

In any case, the Covid-19 pandemic is offering some valuable lessons in life. As was once in Kindergarten,  we are each challenged to learn to work together, to care for each other and to make the best of things by exercising our own playful creativity. We get along better as a nation when we've learned the basics. And since the basics are often not taught as they once were, here we are learning from real life. Barbara Bauer sent this poem, one that is excellent for these times: from https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/these-are-hands/
These are the hands
for the 60th anniversary of the NHS 

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last. —Michael Rosen 

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

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