In accordance with recent history snowfalls like this don't come our way very often. Gosh it could be another 5 or even 10 years before we see snow like this again and we could even get 6 more inches of the white stuff before this weekend. With a sense of urgency in mind and being a teacher who doesn't like to let fantastic opportunities to learn new lessons "slip or slide" away, I therefore decided to insert some flexibility into my students schedule by making today's woodshop classes into "snowshop" class.
So many lessons can be learned by working with snow and those lessons can be just as much productive and powerful in teaching as when a student is learning to use his hands to build a wood box. In many ways I believe that snow crafting can introduce a student to some lessons that are even harder to grasp in a woodshop setting. For one thing igloos are much larger than anything that we build in shop class. An igloo is a project in building a shelter that the students gradually see transformed into a nice room with rounded walls that they can glean pride from having fashioned from the snow. From a bare spot in the forest to a rounded room that echos your voice is great evidence of internal learning that just can't be achieved in other ways. That is golden.
Somehow by using snow as a natural building material also seems to trigger something prehistoric in the participants. Snow is a natural material that humans have been using for temporary shelters for probably thousands of years. Snow isn't something that can be purchased at the local home improvement center but instead it is a natural material that is real and those who learn to skillfully form and carefully fashion the icy blocks into strong walls will learn a valuable lesson in resourcefulness and self-reliance. Knowing that you can build walls and roofs as protection from the earthly elements from something as simple as snow will instill another level of self confidence that is almost impossible to achieve inside the classroom. This is a real lesson in life that you have to learn in the woods and by learning to build useful things from naturally found materials and with your own hands.
Make no mistake about it because working with snow is very hard work. Some students, especially in the begining, will be turned off by this activity because they know that it will require much physical effort. Fortunately those students are mostly far and few between but in their own growth they will still learn by observing because the spirit in teamwork is hard to ignore. Human nature will usually help these students because everyone wants to be part of something and eventually their internal desire to contribute and to be a team player will win them over. When a group of people are working together as a team to accomplish a common goal by using their hands a higher spirit in cooperation will soon become so powerful that a bystander can not resist.
Therefore I challenge you to get your students (or children) outdoors once in a while so that they can learn the kinds of lessons that will compliment their chances of success in the conventional classroom. Turn off their video games and just do it then see for yourself!
Living in the mountains of North Carolina I have spent almost 30 very
rewarding years working with at-risk kids in a wilderness camping program as a counselor, outdoor educator, and woodshop teacher. To learn more about what my blog is all about, just scroll down this sidebar to "About my blog..."
1. Woodcarving/Woodwork: Working wood has been a lifetime obsession for me and I enjoy sharing what I know. It is my belief that hands-on and experiential learning has a direct and profound effect on the development of a child's intellect, confidence, and character. Projects of mine (and my students) will be posted as they progress and I will occasionally include a video tutorial. All of my videos can be found here .
2. Bushcraft/Primitive Living Skills: Finding ways to live closer to the land has always fascinated me. Whether it's building a shelter, fire starting, animal tracking, or just making rustic furniture... you'll eventually see some of it here.
3. Long Distance backpacking, canoeing, & bicycling: Some of my long distance adventures include thru-hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada and I solo paddled the 1,800 mile Yukon river across northwest Canada and Alaska to the Bering sea. More detailed accounts of these and many other adventures can be found here
4. Sustainable Living: I'm always looking for better ways to do more by using less. It's not so much an "environmental" thing to me as it is a quest for personal independence from material things and finding a path to more substantive living .
5. Scouting Activity: As a scoutmaster of 6 years (and currently assistant scoutmaster) I'm actively involved with the troop and "Order of the Arrow" where it is a joy to volunteer hundreds of hours each year because investing in the next generation insures a better tomorrow for everyone. In an era when most schools don't value hands-on learning, outdoor education, and the arts... scouting soars in meeting these critical experiences for boys.
6. Profiles: Behind everyone's success you can usually find a trail of some very significant mentors and teachers along the way. And sometimes you don't completely understand how someone affected your life for the better until many years later. You'll find some of those stories here.