My buddy Dave and I were talking. He’s the fellow that is involved with WoodLINKS. He, like I, was a high school teacher. His area of expertise is wood shop. He is married to a math teacher. Math teachers understand the value of manipulatives (hands on) in teaching kids math.
Dave understands that as well. So do science teachers. That’s why their curriculum isn’t just book learnin’. The labs, where you put that knowledge into use are where the kids connect the dots and come to an understanding of what they have learned. The same thing is true in lots of learning scenarios.
I’ve never met a shop teacher who didn’t complain that kids don’t know how to read a ruler. As you know, a kid isn’tgoing to get very far in shop class if his dimensions are constantly wrong. And, Mr. or Ms. Shopowner,said student is not going to have a very long career in your shop if they don’t come in your door with a strong understanding of how to use that device.
The tape measure and the wood are mathematical manipulatives. Math teachers know that a ruler is a very good way of learning how to make whole numbers and fractions add up. Either things add up and everything’s cool or it’s off and things are not cool. Such is the story of math and woodworking!
Looking back on my career, I suspect that my 7th and 8th grade shop classes were important when, years later, I went to work as an apprentice exhibit builder. In 7th and 8th grade shop, we had hand tool-only projects that were graded, in part, upon how closely they matched the dimensions on the blueprints. And yes, one of those quarter-long shop classes was in mechanical drawing. We had to draw plans too. Another means of learning the ruler.
In the midst of sharing ideas with Dave about how to help kids understand how to read a ruler, to write programming for a CNC, to accurately build any project out of any medium in the shop, there came to a moment of epiphany. That was when the light bulb came on in my brain and another Bernie-ism came from my lips.
“You can’t make it stick in their brains unless you make it stick to their fingers first,” I said to Dave. I think that there is some truth to that.
To learn, you have to pick up the ruler and figure it out. You have to measure it out, turn on the machines, cut out the parts, and then put them together to make certain that what you built matches the blueprints. In turn, you, as shop owner or shop manager, have to have confidence in your people that the teachers have taught, the students have learned and that each student is now at a point of being ready and able to be an apprentice in your shop. That apprenticeship needs to progress as the student continues their studies and, in particular, gains experience…hands on experience…experience through manipulation.
Attached to this article is a video that was forwarded to me this week from Facebook. Strangely enough, it’s a video about the Fermentation Technology program at Oregon State University. Please forgive me for being the proud father, that’s my kid Eryn in the video!
But when you get past that and look at what is going on, you realize that what Eryn says is true. You can make so many things out of just four basic ingredients. For beer drinkers, that’s the difference between Budweiser, Miller, and Boston Brewing. The difference is in the manipulation of those ingredients and what you do to them. But it’s not just so many shovels of this and so many pinches of that any more. It’s about science, serious science, and how that is applied to the art of crafting beer.
Those who understand science and put it together with artistic flair and practical application are those who are leading the craft brewing movement spoken about in the video.
For those of us who are in woodworking, I am back to talking about WoodLINKS again and about the need to provide meaningful instruction in shop skills. That experience creates an avenue for those math/woods students to travel that will lead to meaningful careers in woodworking.
Eryn understands that and has traveled that avenue these past years at O.S.U. Eryn takes lots of science classes.Eryn has been running that pilot brewery at O.S.U. Based upon the knowledge learned there, Eryn has had internships with three significant breweries where Eyn hasfurther applied knowledge learned in the Fermentation Technology program.
Eryn will graduate at the end of this spring term. Eryn is working right now on resumes. Eryn is hoping to receive a job offer from a nationally prominent brewing company.I think that Eryn will succeed in doing that.
Now to the big questions. How can you brew up something to fill your needs for qualified entry-level woodworkers? How are you finding qualified applicants for your company? Have you teamed up with a local woods program at your local high school to seek out people to man you shop? Hmmm…maybe you should look into that! Please do before it’s too late. The number of junior high programs is small and the programs at the high school level are falling. These classes are considered “extras” as compared to the core curriculum. I would suggest that they are essential to making the work of the math teachers more relevant and the education of the kids more fulfilling.
When we get the math teacher and the shop teacher to team together and bring the enrichment of manipulation to the learning of mathematics through practical application in the shop, then we have something that is no longer “extra,” it’s essential to a well-rounded education.
Until next time…spray on!
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