Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Playing IS Learning: Build It - The "Stages of Woodworking"

DuPage Children's Museum values all the stages of woodworking--from making piles of sawdust to building "real" vehicles with wheels and moving parts. In Build It: Moser Construction House, as children hammer, saw, and sweep through predictable developmental stages, they construct their own understanding of how the built environment works.

Do you remember the first experience you had with a “real” tool? Was it exploring the contents of the family tool box or helping out in the garage? What do you remember about this experience?

Many of us forget how exciting just exploring tools can be. Most people might not remember exactly what it was that they “built” during that first experience with "real" tools. However, they do remember how it made them feel to be able to use the same tools as Mom or Dad. Exploring "real" tools for the first time can make a child feel excited, important, or even more confident. As we look at the “stages of woodworking,” remember that you went through each of these stages once and now it is your child who is becoming a builder!

The "Stages of Woodworking"
Some of us may become great architects like Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies Van der Rohe. Some of us may design houses or build bridges. Some of us may make furniture. And some of us may just sit in furniture! But, we all participate in our build environment. Creative building starts with our first curiosity...

At first, children ar
e not even interested in building!
Instead, children are curious about the wood, the benches, or the weight of the tools. They are just getting comfortable in the Moser Construction House.

Look at this! What does this do?

In the next stage, children work on specific skills.
Children hammer for the sake of hammering, drill for the sake of drilling, and saw for the sake of sawing! They still may not "build" anything at all.

Look, Dad! I made sawdust!

Simple construction then begins.
Children combine materials by using the skills they've practiced--nailing together two pieces or attaching bottle caps to a block of wood. As an afterthought, the child might label the object or call it an "airplane" or "car."

I want to take my big car home, Mom.

Finally, children are "builders."
Children have a real idea in mind of what they want to make and purposely gather materials to form a specific shape. They often decide to change their first plan or they may even abandon it. However, that is when special opportunities for creativity arise—as they adjust and revise as they build.

It's a wagon. See— the horse is pulling it?

How to Support Your Child in the Moser Construction House:
-Wear safety goggles
-Respect your child's capacities and limitations
-Model appropriate use of the tools

(i.e. put the wood in the vice before sawing; if your child asks, start a nail for him).
-Offer feedback

(i.e. It takes a lot of work to saw through a piece of wood; Look, you nailed two pieces of wood together)
-Ask questions that stimulate problem solving
(i.e. Which nail do you think will go into the board? How do you think we could add wheels to your car?)
-Remember not to be upset if the work completed is not what you expected. Keep in mind that it is your child’s process that is more important than the product
-Show genuine appreciation for your child's effort
(i.e. Tell me about what you've made.)
-Encourage and support your child in putting the tools away when he is finished.

For More Information on Woodworking with Children:
The DCM Play Facilitators can be a great resource to families or caregivers looking for ways to support children's play. Also, "Build-osophy at DuPage Children's Museum: Becoming a Builder" is another resource that families and caregivers can use. This binder can be found outside the Moser Construction House.

Source: Skeen, Garner, and Cartwright. 1984. Woodworking for Young Children. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Stay Tuned!
Next time, we will continue our blog's "Neighborhood Navigation" and introduce the Young Explorers areas at DuPage Children's Museum. As we take a closer look at these three areas (Build It Young Explorers, Creativity Connections Young Explorers, and Math Young Explorers) we will discuss the neighborhoods' purpose and the many activities they provide for our youngest visitors and their families.

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