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The American Council of Pediatrics has long warned about the dangers of too much screen time
for our kids. It's associated with childhood obesity, anxiety, depression and poor performance
in schools. This isn't just a warning from luddites who want to adhere firmly to the old ways.
Their warnings come as a result of years of research. So where I teach at the Clear Spring School, a small independent school in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, while
we have plenty of laptops and iPads, our emphasis in on hands-on learning. Our Phyllis Poe
Hands-On Learning Center consists of my Wisdom of the Hands woodworking design studio, a kitchen
for culinary arts and health classes, a sewing classroom, a maker space and arts studio, a dance
zone, and teachers who bring these disciplines to life.
Some may remember the old phrase from the arts and crafts era connecting the head, hands
and heart, or the motto of the 4-H clubs, "Head, Hands, Heart and Health." We know that an
increase in interest comes with the engagement of the hands. Our purpose at the Clear Spring
School is not to develop professional crafting as an outcome of education, but to develop the
whole child. The use of the hands is directly connected to the development of both character
and intellect, or as Jacob Bronowski stated so clearly, "the hands are the cutting edge of the
The closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought extra challenges all over the
US, shoving kids more firmly in the direction of online learning and social
isolation. Children are often stuck in family settings where too few tools are available for hands
on learning. So I started a weekly newsletter to give our students things to do, and have been
sending home kits of woodworking tools and supplies. While this is no substitute for time in the
school's wood shop, I believe real projects using real tools and real materials can
relieve the monotony of our current state of affairs.
Knowing that there are many millions of kids beyond the reach of Clear Spring School that need
the kind of creative opportunities that woodworking offers, Woodworking at Home with Kids has been written to
encourage parents and grandparents to take the lead, offering their children what we all know
they need and that schools these days refuse to provide. Even experienced woodworkers may
find useful information from my years of woodworking and writing about it.
So far, tools have included sanding blocks and wooden squares. More will come along with
instructions for those not in the Clear Spring School family to make tools and prepare lessons
for their own kids.
Kits have included chunks of 2 x 4 upon which to create nail art, wooden wheels, axles and car
bodies with which to make flip cars, as well as materials for making trivets, based on an old model
from Educational Sloyd.
In addition to writing books and articles about woodworking, and making boxes and furniture in his own shop, Doug Stowe teaches woodworking grades K-12 and across the US in craft schools and for clubs. He writes as an advocate for hands-on learning in his blog, The Wisdom of the Hands. He was named an Arkansas Living Treasure in 2009 for his leadership in woodworking and education. His newest book, The Guide to Woodworking With Kids comes out in May, 2020. A podcast in which Stowe talks about his work and the philosophy of woodworking can be found here. You can email Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his website.
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