Sunday, January 8, 2012

Woodworking in the Montessori Classroom

Happy New Year!

I am very excited to announce that my school received a very special handmade treasure not long ago.  It was created by a current student and his dad over the past few months.  The picture hardly does it justice:

This woodworking bench and some real tools will provide the children with years of satisfying work.  A few traditional teachers and parents may be thinking..."Wait, you're going to allow twenty 3-6 year-olds to use REAL tools?!" My answer is "Why not?"  Work such as this can be used in a primary classroom if a) the tools are the right size b) the tools function properly and c) the child is given a proper lesson.  The use of real tools instills a sense of responsibility in the child.  He is proud to know that his teacher trusts him, which in turn forms a respectful relationship.

My training introduces the following woodworking lessons: 
  • Nuts and Bolts
  • Using a Wrench
  • Sanding
  • Hammering
  • Using a Screwdriver
  • Hex Bolts
  • Sawing
Yes, you read that correctly...sawing.  I've always put sawing on the shelf with such regret that I didn't have a proper place to put it.  Now the sawing work will be right at home on this bench.  I picked up my saw activity from Lord Equip. It's a great beginner activity, before the child is actually ready to saw wood, because the purpose is to simply saw strips of cardboard.

There's no reason why I have to stop with the list above, just because it's what my training states.  One of my former Montessori professors told us to take Montessori's philosophy and run with it in order to provide what the child needs.  That's why she included so many extensions to the original Montessori lessons.
I'm looking forward to using this bench to someday create a birdfeeder, a birdhouse and maybe even a bat house! 

I recently ordered a child-sized vise and a manual drill from Montessori Services.  If you'd like to try some woodworking activities or introductory activities at home, here are some materials you may need on hand.

  • child-sized safety goggles
  • vise
  • apron
  • hammer
  • screwdrivers
  • screws/nails
  • sanding block
  • saw
  • wood glue
  • level
  • measuring tape
Two very simple, beginner activities to get you started:
1) Set up a tree stump in your backyard.  Provide a small hammer, some nails (finishing nails seem to work best) and safety goggles.  Show your child how to properly hammer the nails in, and then remove them to start over.  Keep all materials in a toolbox or bin.
2) Clamp a piece of wood to a table or bench.  As a fine motor exercise, use a carpenter's pencil to write on the piece of wood.  Use a sanding block to sand away the pencil marks.  Wouldn't you rather practice using a pencil at a woodbench, instead of with writing drills?

Have fun and trust your child to be a responsible carpenter!

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