Wednesday, November 26, 2014

today in my woodshop...

I am ready to apply finish to more boxes to fill holes in my inventory due to filling orders for the Historic Arkansas and Crystal Bridges Museum stores. I have a small Christmas show next week and will need boxes.

We have Thanksgiving guests, and I've prepared lessons in woodworking for my 4 year old great niece. It will  be her first experience making her own toys, and this kind of experience can have profound effect. Memories are most strongly reinforced when activities take place in our own hands and tangible evidence learning is the outcome.

You don't need to have your PhD in psychology to understand the principles involved. But schools in general aspire to lower standards of participation in learning than what we all know works best.

The image above is the cover of the Marc Adams School of Woodworking 2015 catalog. I complimented Marc on his design and learned that the photo was taken of him and his son 21 years ago. Craftsmanship is a thing that must be encouraged, one generation to the next.

Enrollment is now open for those who have not taken classes before at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I have 4 adult classes available there and will have 3 classes in the coming year at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Using Froebel blocks, I laid out the simple example used to illustrate the Pythagorean Theorem. You can read about the Pythagorean theorem in The Duplication of the Square in Plato's Meno (An Appendix to Glenn Rawson's translation).

In the photo above, the sum of the area of the two squares laid upon a and b equals the area of the larger square of the hypotenuse. a2 + b2 = c2 or this animation may help.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

aside from a lovely well crafted box

Aside from a lovely well crafted box, the blocks of each of Froebel's  gifts, 2-6 present the child with a sense that the universe is ordered and stable for his manipulation and unlimited exploration. A cube is discovered within a cube. The cube comes apart for imaginative play and arrangement, and then goes back, restored to its original form.

To return gift number 6 to the box, simply arrange squares as shown in yesterday's photo, stack the assembled squares on top of each other to form the cube, and then slide the box (with lid removed) over the top. Then hold the lid up to the edge of the table and  slide the box and contents off the table and onto the lid. Use the lid to hold the blocks inside as you turn it over. When right side up, the lid slides in place, and the blocks are ready to put away that their mystery may be enjoyed another day. Children can take delight in keeping their blocks neat and in their original form. Parents and teachers can take delight that when the play is over the blocks are put away.

Make, fix and please create...

Monday, November 24, 2014

into the woods.

Froebel's gift number 6
Froebel gift set number 6 consists of 36 blocks, 1/2 in. thick. There are 18 blocks just as used in Gift number 4, 1 in.  wide x 2 inches long. In addition there are 12 square half blocks, and 6 column half blocks. With these few blocks wonderful things can be built. These stack to form a 6 layer cube that can be stored neatly in the box.

We are off this coming week at Clear Spring School due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I need to say just a few words about last week. Each year when the ticks and other biting insects are killed by our first freezing days of winter, the woods surrounding the Clear Spring School campus are opened for play. This happened last week, just as it does each year with an official ceremony called "opening the woods."

The children are given specific rules to follow. One of these is that they must respond to the bell and come immediately back to the school grounds. There are very clear boundaries set for their exploration. The tradition is for them to form non-exclusive groups and for them to organize forts. When my daughter was in Clear Spring School, she came home each day with stories about "Double Tree" and about the competition with rival groups for sticks and other building supplies. Building forts and organizing play in the woods remains one of the most memorable of her experiences at the Clear Spring School. In the school wood shop on Thursday, the kids all wanted to make tools to work on their forts and signs to mark them out and with the woods having just opened for the season, there was genuine excitement in the air.

There are two very good reasons for children to play in the woods. The first is that the children need to be engaged in direct investigation in the outdoors. We accomplish this in part through extensive outdoor education, field trips and camping, but they also need to establish personal relationships to the outdoors. The second has to do with what Matti Bergström has called the "black white game." What parents and teachers want children to do he calls the white game. What children want to do of their own inclinations he calls the black game. In the latter, children explore and establish their own relationships with others and with material reality. He said in discussion of this game that human culture must arise new within each generation. And so it will. Children from Clear Spring School are equipped for that. We call it "play" and it happens at recess, but it is educational. And when you see students at Clear Spring running excitedly through the woods, there is a reason for it.

Tim Holton sent two related links from KQED: Forest Kindergartens Push Back Against Academic Focus For Young Kids and Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten. At Clear Spring School, outdoor education is nothing new and starts in pre-primary school. Thanks, Tim.

In my own shop today, I will be making sets of Froebel blocks, taking a few photos and writing about it.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

rabbeted bottoms

I am working on gifts 5, 5b and 6.

One of the easiest ways to install a plywood bottom in a box is by using a router table and rabbeting bit to route the space for it to fit. Unfortunately, most rabbeting bits are large and while they can be adjusted to cut a small rabbet for small boxes, that requires adding a large bearing which keeps it from routing into the corners.

Amana has made a small rabbeting bit that is perfect for making small boxes. It has a bearing diameter of 3/16 in. and routes a 1/8 in. rabbet, which makes it perfect for use with the Froebel boxes I'm making for gifts, 5, 5b and 6.

In the photos above and below, you can see it in use.  When the rabbet has been cut, simply measure the inside space, cut the bottom to the same size and then round the corners.

For a single box, shaping each corner with a disk sander makes sense as it can be quickly done. In a production setting, many can be routed at the same time on the router table by standing them on edge and using a round over bit of the required radius.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pythagorean theorem

The image below shows the use of Freobel's gift number 5 to demonstrate the validity of the Pythagorean Theorem, one of the foundational principles of mathematics. Most students are required to memorize it as
a^2 + b^2 = c^2\!\,  but without being taught its relationship to geometry as shown above. B squared is not just a number multiplied by itself but represents a shape.

In accounting, facility in the addition, subtraction and application of numbers is important. That is one side of math. In engineering, facility with shape is important. That is the side of mathematics that we tend to ignore in school but that can be applied in wood shop.

When I was taught the Pythagorean theorem, it was presented in a purely numeric form, completely divorced from the concept so well illustrated both above and below. Squared and cubed numbers as well as their roots were left dead for me, just as they are too often left for dead in today's math.

Froebel's gift number 5 as used to represent the Pythagorean theorem is shown below.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 21, 2014

5, 5b and 6

I have been working on gifts 5, 5b and 6 and the chapter that includes these gifts. This photo shows the set of blocks that Froebel designed as set number 5. This was the set of blocks used by older children to understand the Pythagorean theorem.

How many children were able to understand the Pythagorean theorem through the use of these blocks, I don't know. But facility for math is not only the use and understanding of numbers. It involves "spatial sense," such as one might develop through manipulation of blocks. Choosing points along a number line is an important skill, as is judging relative proportions and scale.

Even G. Stanley Hall, recognized that learning through the hands touched the unconscious mind in ways that conscious recitation based learning could not. I repeat a quote from my blog post of two days ago:
Where work that the boy has made himself with his own hands goes, there his interest follows. His reading is stimulated; the inner eye back of the retina is opened, and that priceless though semi-conscious education, which is by hints and suggestions and which is far more rapid and indelible than anything in the memorized and examinable region of the soul, goes on by leaps and bounds. Thus skill with the fingers is harnessed to development of the cerebral neurons, as it should be, and we are working in the depths and not the shallows of the soul. - G. Stanley Hall.
Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the impulse for action and work...

"The impulse for action and work makes the child hammer and knead, scrawl and cut whatever falls into his hands. It is the office of education to come to the assistance of this natural striving which is the child's work of development." - Education by Work 1876 by Bertha Von Marenholtz-Buelow
Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, the first grade students worked on puppets and were disappointed that they were not able to finish them in a single class period. My fourth grade students wanted to make things from their own imaginations. One used sketchup to draw 3-D creepers and zombies from Minecraft. A new student wanted to make a box so that he would (like the other students) have a place for his desk items. Another wanted to make a birthday present for her mother. All could be done in woodshop, but the activity kept me too busy to take any photos of the children at their work.

This afternoon my middle school students wanted to make their own tools to use in the woods. After the first below freezing days of the winter season, the bugs die down, and the snakes are in hibernation, we open the woods surrounding the campus for play. Children join non-exclusive groups and build forts. Suitable sticks are always at a premium and serve as currency. This year, for the first time, they decided they need tools, and asked that they be able to make the tools themselves. So as some made signs and tool racks, another made a wooden mallet. More will come a week from Tuesday when we return from Thanksgiving break.

Make, fix and create...