This Week In the Classroom: Progress in 2011

What a  student-driven,  project-based learning  can result in:

The joints look remarkably tight in this photo, and the stain quite even, but don’t be fooled.  This is about as rough as work gets.  (Not including the Clock, which may be finished and rejected this week…)   It was the first attempt at an entire project like this by the student.  He cut the wood from the original 1×11, sanded the parts to his specifications, measured and attached the handle without major intervention by the teacher.  Pretty darn good for a nine-year old.

Here’s the first piece of “indoor quality”, or rather, “furniture quality”, maybe just “quality”, furniture to come out of my work’s woodshop this year:

This project has been incubating for three to four months now.  It has been delayed by homework, lack of schoolwork, wind, fire and holidays. It’s made of completely recycled or found wood.  He used a jigsaw to cut the plywood and you can watch his cuts get straighter and straighter throughout the piece (we didn’t use a saw guide, something which will be made when the transition to a real space happens.  We used an pnuematic nailer to tack everything in place.  A quick sand job and she’s ready to go.

Next time, I’ll be looking at rounding over every exposed edge with a small router or router plane and finding a technique which promotes better-quality painting.  Last but not least – more practice for my students with the jigsaw.  Practice in woodworking can be in short supply (you have to have scrap wood, time and a project you can mess up on) – but maybe I can figure out a useful way to get my kids more reps at the jig.

I think a close up of those mitered moldings is in order:

Mmmmmm-hmmmmm, that looks like a good corner.  That made my week right there.

Some days I must remind myself: embrace the process.  Both of these projects suffered setbacks which took away from the quality or timeliness  of the final product.  But from a student-centered perspective, the journey (and its completion) became the real” products”.  It’s not my job to produce products, portfolios, grades or the score on a test written and concieved by educational bureaucrats and slick-haired politicians.

I produce journeys.

5 thoughts on “This Week In the Classroom: Progress in 2011

  1. He needs to give me some lessons in jigsaw use. I have never cut a straight line with a jigsaw.
    I have a nine-year old; that looks really good to me! Task completion alone is admirable, i’d say.

    1. He used the straight edges as the show edges (first trick) and the molding hides a few sins. About a quarter inch worth of sins. He also straightened the piece out with a sharp hand plane.

      Soon enough we’ll build a four-foot and two foot jigsaw guide for the straight stuff, something like the saw guide you can find here a few posts back.

      I’ll pass along your complements when I see him tomorrow – and this weekend I’ll be showing his coping saw skill off too.

  2. Jigsaw guide? I just use a piece of reasonably straight plywood and a couple of clamps. I guess a length of angle iron would work, too.

    But nice work. You’re teaching them skills that will last a lifetime, and hopefully, they’ll think of you whenever they pick up a tool. Good on ya!

    1. The guide would be the straight piece of wood with a piece of hardboard screwed underneath. First time you cut against the fence, the blade cuts a straight line in the hardboard the exact width from the fence. I’ve found it to be far more accurate than a fence alone.

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