By Alexis Masingill
In the weeks following our real tools provocation, we experienced an explosion of interest in woodworking. The simple task of hammering nails into scrap wood, tree stumps, and other materails in and out of the classroom showed that there was a true investment in their time with these materials. I showed them a catapult that Asha had made from our community day with Olive room. While examining the catatpult, the children noticed that they needed smaller cuts of wood to attach to the bottom of the larger piece to create a fulcrum.
So I inquired what they can use to make smaller cuts of wood. Ted said we have to break it in half, then Husdon mentioned he had a saw at home that we can use. So I took it upon myself to locate a hacksaw. I knew that this activity would need to be very controlled, and had to set my expectations realistcally. This meant that I took a smaller group and set limits from the beginning.
We discussed the seriousness of this tool and how to be safe with it. They all knew that it was a sharp tool and I was firm about how to hold it. They already knew that goggles were needed, and we all agreed that only one child could use this tool at a time. This was a very different experience because when we used the hammers we could have mulitple children working side by side. I had to give them hand-on-hand guidance with this tool. I attached a long, thin cut of wood with two clamps to the table.
I would model how to use the hacksaw and would hold the hacksaw with them. I then would stand close by to witnessed each child show restraint and caution. This was matched with excitement and seriousness. After trying a few small cuts, we realized that we need to measure the pieces that we wanted to add to the larger cuts of wood to create those catapults. This required using a pencil to mark the thin wood, starting the cut, and keeping their eye on the line. After they cut their pieces, they were able to nail them into a larger piece of wood to create their own creations. Although many of them were interested in making a catapult, I encouraged them to come up with new ideas too.
There were moments of struggle. Things like, having to be patient to wait for their turn, not being able to master these tools, and using a skill such as hand-eye coordination, were all tangible moments. But the real reward was being able to witness the children take on new ways to harness their newfound appreciation for using real tools. Hearing the children encourage each other was a true testament of building those foundations of a strong community of learners.
In light of our current situation here in our city, I spread a message of how we can connect with this moment as we rebuild our hearts and minds to prepare for the unknown future. We can all use a few tools to keep ourselves moving forward in these difficult times.