MANUAL ARTS PROGRAM: WOODWORKING
The COS Manual Arts Program in Woodworking offers fifth graders what no other program can: the ability to “think with their hands;” a mastery of tools often regarded as unsafe for children; and the power to use their hands and tools to design, plan and create something purposeful entirely on their own.
Woodworking classes have been largely eliminated from public schools since the 1990s as administrators made way for a technology-based age. But research shows that programs like woodworking allow children to be drivers in their own learning, as opposed to passengers. Without programs in the manual arts, children may never learn how to fix things, and may end up lacking even the most basic manual competence. More concerning, eliminating programs like woodworking has alienated children whose intelligence and abilities do not align well with traditional classroom learning.
Fifth graders in the Woodworking Program at COS forego the use of power tools and learn mastery of manual tools first. They create small projects on their own and as a group. For example, students design a maze for a small stainless-steel ball and then must construct it out of wood according to the measurements of their own design. As they construct the maze, students must make adjustments as the ball’s path through the maze is assessed.
The fifth-grade Woodworking Program is a sensory experience – students smell and feel the wood, hear the sounds of the hammers and saws, feel their muscles working and use the movement of their bodies to create something purposeful, practical and unique. Through the competency they gain in undertaking a difficult task, children are given a sense of power and pride in what they can accomplish.
Projects like this enhance learning in traditional subjects like math (measuring, designing) and science (physical properties of wood, physics), and they also teach children through process learning, or active learning by doing. Students gain experience in planning and designing, in problem-solving and collaborating – and in failing. They learn to persevere, and they learn the value of making things right. They learn patience when facing challenges and pride in overcoming them.
EITC grants from the COS Foundation to the Manual Arts Program in Woodworking will be used to provide tools and materials for projects. Funds could also be used to fund visits by craftsmen, carpenters and tradespeople so children can learn from professionals in the field.