The initial concept of "Wisdom of the Hands" grew from two sources, internet discussions with industrial arts teachers throughout the US and UK, and discussions with Jerry RunnerSmith, Headmaster of The Clear Spring School about the need to insure that the new Clear Spring High School meets students' various learning styles. The Clear Spring School has utilized a program of "whole learning" and integrated curriculum in all age levels since 1974. The Wisdom of the Hands program will assist in extending the whole learning and integrated curriculum into the high school years where most educational programs are highly segmented. Many industrial arts programs throughout the US are having their funding cut or programs supplanted by technology education where instead of things being made with the hands, images are modeled on computer screens. The Wisdom of the Hands will present a model where the hands are fully engaged in the overall educational process.
For many years "shop" and "industrial arts" have been perceived as an alternate career track for those students for whom college is not an option. Yet our schools teach math without expecting our children to become mathematicians. It is understood that learning math involves developmental growth in the brain, enabling abstract thinking. Our premise is that "industrial arts" involves developmental growth of the heart and mind that may be of tremendous benefit to confidence and creativity. We propose that working with ones hands and connecting that work to other areas of learning are relevant to all students, regardless of their academic goals. The premise upon which the Wisdom of the Hands is based is not new in American Education.
With little effort, industrial arts can be related to literature, history, psychology, science, environmental studies, physics, music, mathematics and more. "Wisdom of the Hands" will pilot making these connections between 'making' and other areas of study. While the scale of most educational institutions would make a program like "Wisdom of the Hands" hard to create and evaluate. The CS High School is a small academic setting, perfect for the creation of a meaningful and groundbreaking pilot program. The creation of the new CS High School provides the opportunity for the Wisdom of the Hands pilot project to become rooted at the core of a brand new high school experience, giving the faculty opportunity and encouragement to explore the relationship between areas of study, placing the depth of hands-on experience at the juncture.
Viewing industrial arts as an alternate career track for those students not in college preparatory programs overlooks its value to students at large, leaving large segments of our adult population feeling intimidated by tools and lacking confidence in working with their hands. We need to give children hands-on learning opportunities to "ground" the other subject areas and learning.
An Industrial Arts/furniture design studio will be added to the 6,000 square ft. high school building. Instruction will begin with available resources as the current structure is modified to allow the addition of woodworking studio space. The plan calls for a close association between faculty members to establish links between curricula and integration with the design studio. As resources allow, tools will be purchased and introduced for student use and instruction. In addition, the plan calls for photo documentation of the project for eventual publication as a woodworking text to encourage other school systems and parents to understand the importance of hands-on learning and its successful integration with areas of more conventional study.
The "Wisdom of the Hands" program will begin concurrent with the beginning of the school year.
Doug Stowe of Eureka Springs, Arkansas has been a furniture designer/craftsman since 1976 and is the author of three woodworking books, Creating Beautiful Boxes With Inlay Techniques, Simply Beautiful Boxes and Making Elegant Custom Tables. He is on the faculty of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.
This project will have immediate impact on the lives of the 30-40 high school students by giving them hands-on direct learning opportunities that are not currently available, enriching the normal high school experience. The project will have a much greater potential and long-term impact as a result of materials published about the project, with the potential of having a positive impact on industrial arts programs and high school education throughout the US.
Clear Spring High School has received a $75,000 grant from a private foundation to support the Wisdom of the Hands program through its first year. Other donations of tools and materials are being accepted.
The proposed outcome will be the successful integration of the industrial arts "shop" with traditional core academic courses such as science, math, social studies and language arts. We expect that by integrating the hands-on learning of the "Wisdom of the Hands" program with the students' learning in other subjects, the overall value to the students of their education will be increased. Students and teachers will provide written assessments outlining their use of the "shop" in cross-curricular learning. A portfolio of actual products related to learning activities, and documentation using student generated photography, text and/or video will aid in the evaluation process. A cooperative framework with other members of the faculty will enable normal areas of curriculum, math, social studies, history, philosophy and science, to find direct application through the design studio.
Finally, the students will learn the connections of hands to head to heart. They will come to know themselves as they learn to create, to have patience, to know the benchmark of quality work, to see a thing through to the end and, ultimately, to discover the connectedness of all things.
The Clear Spring School has set a standard for academic excellence in Northwest Arkansas for 27 years. For more information on The Clear Spring School, please email Jerry Runner-Smith, Headmaster. For more information about The Wisdom of the Hands, email Doug Stowe, project director.
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