Monday, August 18, 2014

A big day at the Science & Sustainability Community Expo.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, and many hundreds of people moved between the numerous stalls and activities at the Community Science & Sustainability Expo, at the Kent Street Weir on the Canning River in Wilson, here in Perth Western Australia. 
Part of National Science Week, this event was based around the Canning River Eco Education Centre. Tragically, we have a Federal Government made up of climate change deniers, who do not believe in science, who de-fund scientific research and who are committed to dismantling anything related to renewable energy! However, despite this tragedy, it is great to know that out there in the community there are hoards of people like you and me who do value science and are committed to reducing our footprint on the planet! It was a joy to be at the Expo today for all that it stood for.

Busy busy. People galore.

Mind you, I didn't get to see a lot of the exhibits, as I was absolutely flat out with the woodworking activity we were running today. Bursting out of our three 3m x 3m gazebos, we had 9 of the small benches out, with 27 hammers out, and 4 saws at the sawing station. For much of the day there was a queue of people waiting for a hammer to become available. I do a lot of festival gigs in the year, so I have a good idea of how much wood I would expect to go through at an event such as this... however today we used up far more than I could have imagined! We all but ran out of the pieces of wood that I take to these events.
Two big drums and 5 bags worth. It was a lot of wood, which generated a lot of pleasure as it was transformed by kids and adults into an amazing array of creations using only saws, hammers and nails. Wonderful stuff.

Parents and kids alike experiencing the joy of wood together.
Hardly room to move.
Part of our broader message.
Wood recycling fits in with the whole sustainability message. All of my benches are made from recycled timber, and all of the pieces of wood the kids use have all been rescued from the waste stream too. These small pieces of plywood and pine are cut up by me. It is a constant process, keeping up the supply for school and festival gigs. A big source of this material is beautiful Yellow Pine from the USA - from packing crates, which I gather up, de-nail, cut up into little pieces and bag up. This lovely material, which we also use for much of the project work we do with kids in schools, is much nicer than any Pinus radiata or Pinus pinaster we grow in Australia due to the closeness of the growth rings. Our climate is too mild and even. The European grown pine similarly has nice close growth rings. I get a bit of that in packing crates too.  

Some things take a serious amount of concentration!
Megan shows a few tricks at a bench.

It is great to see kids and parents creating things together. It is one of the reasons our activity is such an assett to any festival or public event. It helps to build community, invites participation from the passing throng, and sends kids back out into the crowd clutching their aeroplane, dolls furniture, or whatever they have made, with beaming faces. They have also left with a few new skills and experiences up their sleeve.
Then there are the messages: the importance of wood in the broader scheme of sustainable living; the simple pleasures of hand tool woodworking; the benefits of us creating things together away from isolating electronic gismos; and the way using hand tools helps to foster body awareness and hand-to-eye co-ordination.
... and that is just the start of it!   

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pre-School creations at St Marks Anglican Community School

Recently we did a woodworking incursion at St Mark's Anglican Community School, in Hillarys, here in Perth, Western Australia. This is the third year I have gone to the school to work with the Pre-primary students.

We had two classes of 30 kids - 5 year olds - and they had a ball! It was great to see the amazing things they created. It was our normal set-up for "Free Creative Play" in a school context. Across the 14 small benches we had 30 cross-pein hammers. On each of the benches were a pair of pincers, pencils, and nail containers with assorted nail sizes. The Sawing Station was set up with 8 assorted tenon/carcass saws at various heights appropriate to the size of the kids. There was a big pile of softwood pieces in various shapes and sizes for the kids to use, which we kept topping up.

After a briefing/demonstration about safe and efficient tool use, the kids get to make whatever they like from the material available.
One of the two tables of completed creations.
It was good to have a heap of parent helpers along to assist the kids, and they often get to learn a few tricks and techniques with hand tools too. Of course, the parents are asked to not "take over" (something Dads are notorious for) but to just hold things and generally help while the kids creativity goes wild. Thanks to those parents adn the wonderful staff for helping make it a great day.

What are the benefits for 5 year olds doing woodwork?
The benefits are numerous, but here are just a few:
  • Using any hand tools, but exsecially the saws, requires some body awareness. Sawing involves so many macro and micro muscle movements. Getting your body and body parts in the right position makes a big difference to the ease of sawing, When things "click into place" for a child using a saw, it is empowering and encouraging for them. They love it.
  • Skills for life. As kids we learn from experience, observation and reinforcement. Learning how to use a hammer or a saw is something you can take with you into the rest of yoru life. If a kid goes home from school that day and asks their parent(s) if there is a hammer in the house, that's a great thing. Hopefully the parent(s) will let their kid use it and give them a bunch of nails and a few peices of wood.
  • Working out how to put things together involves problem solving. So kids creating things with pieces of wood and a few hand tools will develop problem solving sklls - and problem solving builds resilience.   
  • Making things with pieces of wood helps the kids develop spatial relation skills, as they work out how to fit things together. Comparing pieces, cutting to size, choosing the right nail size, finding the right piece in the big bin of pieces - all these processes in the making of something help the brain develop spatial relation skills.
  • The encouragement and satisfaction derrived from completing the making of something is affirming and very positive. The resulting positive feedback the child receives from others around them helps to build self-confidence. Once again, self-confedence helps to build resilience.
  • In a press-button instant world, it's great for kids to experience the reality of something requireing some physical and mental effort, persistence and committment around a tangible, tactile medium and the creatiion of a real thing which can be played with, given as a gift, or displayed as a decorative item of momento. The creation which keeps on giving.
We do quite a lot of work with really young kids. They thrive on it, so it is always a pleasure to see them blossoming in the short period that they are at the bench creating something with their own hands.

Great to see this little guy using the small end of a cross-pein hammer, to get at a tricky nail position -  just as I had demonstrated at teh start of the class. Kids are often smarter than we adults give them credit for...

We are never too young or too old to benefit from the joy of woodworking!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Enjoying a "Taste of Green Woodwork" Workshop.

At the end of June, I had the pleasure of running another Green Woodworking workshop. This time we used the Vic Park Arts Centre as the venue. On a nice sunny day, it was great to be able to work out in the garden and on the verandah.

Front side of the info flyer for the June workshop.
Calling it "A Taste of Green Woodworking", the ten participants had a choice of either bowl carving or spoon carving. The wood we had to play with was Cape Lilac and Camphor Laurel.

Here are a few pics from the day:

That's me doing a demo on cleaving some Cape Lilac with froe and beetle.
Another lovely spoon taking shape.
Doing a demo on hollowing out the bowl shape with an adze.
A Camphor Laurel Bowl in the making.
The Shaving Horse is a joy to use!
The small bowl carving adze is a beauty.
A moment of contemplation...
Working on the verandah.
There were an assortment of hatchets and adzes to try out.
Shaping the outside of a Camphor Laurel bowl with a hatchet.
Using a Hook Knife to hollow the bowl of a spoon.

It's a very relaxing pastime carving spoons together.
While not every creation was completely finished, it was a great day working green wood together. 
 Pre-industrial woodworking. What a hoot! So interesting - and such fun!

The next Green Woodworking Workshop will be a 2 day affair, on two consecutive Sundays in September. We will be making both a three-legged stool and a spoon over that time.

Here is the front side of the flyer: