|Project by WhiskeyWaters||posted 01-18-2008 05:28 AM||1592 views||2 times favorited||6 comments|
Well, if anyone askin’ why my stuff is this kid material, it’s because I have a passion to teach kids, and while LumberJocks do make plenty of wicked cool toys, I haven’t seen too many kid-directed projects. I want to share what I’ve learned in my short time as a teacher -
I’ve found most adults overestimate or underestimate kids when it comes to woodworking. Most the time, we adults can do both at the same time.
Lemme explain my contradiction little. I tend to overestimate the kids: I think the kids will have the same interest in the project (such as my current bookshelf project) as I do – the engineering, the design, finding a way to make things fit and fit well, etc. Large projects, I’ve found, are tough, very very tough, for a kid to conceptualize and put together. Kids like to see what they are making; as an adult, I can visualize to a degree most children can. Frustrations have mellowed as I’ve aged (I’m still young, I know. I’m just saying, compared to a 12-year-old, my patience for frustrations is near glacial.) I expect setbacks, I can enjoy the challenge they pose. Children have a tough time with this, and I must remember to focus the project around their skills and their interests. And finally, most, not all mind you, there’s a few visionaries in the bunch, do not have the attention span to finish a large project, such as a chair or table or whathaveyou.
And I tend to put a kids-these-days onto that: Kids-these-days don’t have the attention span. I’m not sure that’s true. In fact, as I’ll point out in the next paragraph, it ain’t always true. But I’ve found that I, and many parents, older adults, teachers, etc. remember their childhoods as doing work from start to finish and building Taj Mahals with nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife and kite string. I was there for my childhood, I wasn’t there for anyone elses. But I’m willing to bet, as a whole, kids-these-days are similar to us-in-those-times, we plain just don’t remember it clearly. We didn’t make Taj Mahals, we made thrown together forts and used our imaginations to make it into a decorative wonder of the world. I ran to the corner market as a five year old and paid for the newspaper all by my ownself. I even took my little brother. I didn’t know Mom followed me the whole time just to make sure I’d stay safe. Kids-these-days can and will do the same thing, but we have forgotten our mistakes in childhood and expect, unconsciously, for the kids-these-days to have our maturity – or at least listen to our sage and most excellent advice (note of irony in that last one).
But I’ve underestimated my kids also: If I can find the right project, such as the Hokie signs (I made about 60 of them over two weeks; two weeks of kids requests and them thinking I was the coolest teacher since Sidney Poiter in the Substitute) the kids-these days switch course. They are engaged, happy, excited about woodworking and the possibilities of creation, whether writing, painting, photography, engineering, physics, biology or chemistry. It’s a rush like nuthin’ I’ve seen. You start wishing you were the student, not the teacher, and could have that enthusiasm again, that pure god-given and age-taken-way joy of being in the here, now and present. The kid learns the correct way to use a power drill, and use it on his or her own; they design their own picture frame, and all you do is show them the technique, not tell them what to make or limit their expression. Don’t underestimate the power of the kid; let them do as much as they possibly can, let them make the mistake, let them fall down. My job as I see it is not to attach a child to the trapeze, it’s to be the safety net to let them fly. And no matter how long I’ve taught, I still cannot predict what a child will be interested in – small toy gizmos, big chairs, hippie inspired motorcycles, or plan ol’ signs. I always underestimate their enthusiasm for life and knowledge.
And with that metaphor, I leave with these pictures from my summer: the “hippie motorcycle”, the Adirondack inspired chair, and a good shot of the workbench and completed projects. These projects worked for me, and really seemed to connect with the children: easy to visualize, exciting to build and create, and really inspired them to continue “making” things – several of these kids have progressed to amazing levels of self assurance, independence and just plain coolness.
I hope you LumberJocks with kids or grandkids or some other small relation can take a bit of what I’ve found and learned and apply it better than I have.
-- make it safe & keep the rubber side down.