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How to Teach Woodcraft

Oct 31, 2007
Teaching woodcraft to a group of children can be a pleasure or a plight, depending largely upon how the activity is approached by the instructor. Since we are dealing with a recreational type of program which is intended to be "fun" for all concerned, it might be well to begin by setting down a few principles which may help to make woodcraft a more meaningful and enjoyable experience.

1. Have at least one new project planned for each session which the average child can be expected to complete in the working time available.

The child is primarily concerned with the present. He achieves greatest satisfaction from a project which he can complete in one sitting and take home with him. He is likely to lose interest in projects which drag on from week to week. This is particularly important during the first few sessions. As the child becomes more skillful, projects that involve more time may be introduced.

2. Plan the project so that the child can work continually, without prolonged waiting for materials or equipment.

An arrangement for sharing essential tools should be devised so that the child's enthusiasm is not stifled by prolonged waiting. In cases where equipment is limited, two projects requiring different tools can be administered concurrently.

3. A complete explanation of all operations and steps should be presented before work is begun. A sample of the completed project, available for inspection, will stimulate interest.

When the child understands how each step contributes to the finished article, he can work more efficiently and avoid making unnecessary mistakes. Children prefer to make something similar to what they have actually seen. The sample also provides a standard by which the child may judge his work.

4. Encourage the child to put forth his very best effort. Reserve your praise for situations which merit a sincere compliment.

Children are often so eager to assemble their projects and take them home that they tend to neglect proper sanding and finishing. The importance of these last steps in turning out a truly "finished" piece of work should be stressed.

5. Help children to establish good work habits. Teach them the importance of careful planning before beginning work on a project. The proper care of tools and shop equipment should be emphasized.

Preliminary planning saves time and materials and helps the child to develop a logical, systematic approach to woodcraft. Children can be taught the importance of returning tools and unused materials to the proper places. The last few minutes of each session should be reserved for "cleaning up the work area." If the child places his name on each piece of wood issued to him, he will be able to locate his materials quickly at the next session.

6. Shop discipline and safety measures must be rigidly enforced.

Power tools should not be used by very young children, and should be used by older ones only under direct supervision. Even hand tools can be dangerous if they are not handled properly.

7. Be ready to assist when needed, but do not be so liberal with your help that it becomes your project rather than the child's.

Make it clear that you are showing the child how to do a particular operation and not doing it for him. A child cannot take real pride in a project which he feels represents more of your work than his own. Encourage the learner to incorporate his own ideas in the project whenever possible.

8. Watch for signs of discouragement. Help children to see why they are having trouble and how to make the necessary adjustment.

Many common difficulties may be the result of such "little" things as inadequate support for the piece of wood on which the child is working, or failure to grasp the handle of the hammer properly. When these faults are corrected, the child will find his work much easier.

Keeping these principles in mind should make for a satisfactory experience for child and teacher alike.
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