Imagine that all children have the opportunity to learn to make things by hand. Imagine that by making, all children gain tools for problem-solving and creativity, self-expression and self-reliance. Imagine these tools are placed in the hands of all children in a woodworking class. Beth Ireland and the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts are working to bring this opportunity to as many Boston schoolchildren as possible, regardless of background.
Inspired by the positive impact of Turning Around America’s first project: Mobile Workshop, the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts has partnered with founder Beth Ireland to offer a similar program with Turning Around Boston.
Beth will spend October in Boston bringing her mobile workshop to as many public schools, community centers and after school programs as possible. She will transform classrooms, gyms and community spaces into temporary wood shops. There she’ll teach children in Grades K-8 some basics of woodworking – safety, tools and basic construction. Each child will make a small object – a pen or a whistle. (Children in Kindergarten and 1st Grade will color turnings that Beth makes.) Many of the children we reach will be making something by hand for the first time in their lives. This will be the first time many use a ruler or a saw.
Beth and an aide will teach classes no larger than 30 students. An average class of 45 minutes gives enough time for each student to complete a project. Eliot School Program Coordinator Alison Croney will strategize with principals and school teachers to make sure the program runs well.
Depending on age and location, some children will turn wood on mini-lathes, while others will use hand saws, files and rasps. Students who complete their projects in time will embellish them with carving and painting. At the end of the day, students will bring their handmade items home and share them with friends and family.
The project is designed to plant seeds that we hope will result in bringing hands-on learning back into our public schools. When children learn math and gain pride from making even one small object, and when parents, teachers and principals see its value, then we have taken one more step to re-introduce ‘making’ into the core education of every child.
Turning Around Boston will be free to participating schools and programs. This means all children will have an opportunity to take a woodworking class, not just those whose families can afford private school or private program tuition.
Read an article in American Woodturner Magazine about Beth’s Turning Around America projects and their impact in the communities she visited.
How we’ll make it happen:
Through our work with schools over the past six years, we have extensive relationships in the Boston Public Schools and organizations serving low-income youth. Our Program Coordinator, Alison Croney, will reach out to schools and youth programs, coordinate Beth’s schedule, and act as liaison between Beth and school and program administrators.
Why this project matters:
If we want a new generation of makers, people who shape our world with heads, hands and heart, we need to bring our children – all children – into the habit of making things now.
When children try to manipulate numbers without ever having held a ruler, or cut an object into fractions, math remains abstract and inaccessible. When objects are bought but never made, broken but never fixed, children lack the knowledge that they can build and repair their world. Yet this is the experience of many children today.
Children benefit enormously from hands-on learning. Making things by hand changes their relationship to their world. It gives them first-hand experience of agency, engages them in problem-solving and creative risk-taking and teaches them real-life math and conceptual skills.
Woodworking – “shop” – is gone from Boston’s public elementary and middle schools. We are working to bring it back.
To send Beth Ireland and her mobile woodworking van into as many Boston Public Schools, after-school programs and community centers as possible in one month.
To put the tools of creativity directly into the hands of children in those schools and programs.
To lay the foundation in those children for lifelong learning, resourcefulness, self-reliance and creative problem solving.
To show children, parents, teachers and principals the value of woodworking and promote hands-on learning.
To sow seeds that we hope will result in re-introducing hands-on learning, including woodworking, back into our public schools.
How your donation helps:
Your donation will pay for:
• Beth’s time – We will pay Beth for each day she teaches. The more we raise, the more schools she can visit.
• Supplies & materials – We’ll supply lumber and hardware for children to use.
• Outreach – Our wonderful staff member, Alison Croney, will do outreach and coordinate the logistics with as many schools and programs as we can line up. She will also follow up with them to sow seeds for more extensive woodworking and hands-on learning collaborations in the future.
What will we do with additional funds if we exceed our goal?
Extra funds will allow us to extend our outreach and visibility:
• Van wrap – We want to vinyl-wrap Beth’s van for the month of the project with an eye-catching graphic that will make school personnel, parents, children and neighbors sit up and pay attention. Our URL will direct people to the project’s web page for more information. It’s also a great place for us to acknowledge our business supporters and larger Kickstarter contributors.
• Documentation – If we raise enough funds, we will make a video, including comments from children and school personnel. The documentation will help us share the effects of the project as we approach additional schools over the coming years, promoting woodworking classes and other opportunities for hands-on learning. We will use it to approach funders, too, in order to sustain more woodworking partnerships with schools over time.
Who we are:
Beth Ireland, renowned for her fine wood turning and sculpture, is a passionate advocate of hands-on learning for all. She specializes in woodturning, furniture and sculpture. Her turned vessels and forms are highly prized for their artistry, and widely seen in galleries and publications. She has taught at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Arrowmont, Penland and Peter’s Valley, and was a Windgate Fellow at Purchase College in 2013. She lives and keeps her studio in Roslindale, Mass.
In 2012, Beth spent a year traveling across the United States in her van equipped with a mini workshop and a personal living space. She stopped at schools and art centers, in small towns and big ones, covering 25,000 miles and teaching over two thousand people how to turn wood. Jenn Moller collaborated with digital support (documentation and web design). They called their endeavor Turning Around America.
Ireland and Moller then traveled to Guatemala, teaching people in a small village how to use hand tools they brought with them from Boston and left behind. People made instruments and household items out of wood. Beth has written, “I was just going to teach as many people as I could how to make a simple wooden object. It became so much more.”
The Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts inspires lifelong learning in craftsmanship and creativity for all. Celebrating skills and imagination, we encourage our students to create using head, hands and heart. At our schoolhouse in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, we teach 1,400 students each year, of all ages and all walks of life, from beginners to experienced artisans.
Our School Partnership Program brings art and woodworking into 15 Boston Public Schools and a half-dozen non-profit organizations each year. There, our artists and artisans turn classrooms and cafeterias into wood shops and art rooms. Each year over 1,200 students in Grades K–8 experience the pleasures of making things by hand, absorbing math, literacy and conceptual skills in the process, learning to take intelligent risks and reaping the rewards of trial and error. Our Scholarship Fund allows low-income students from our School Partnership Program to take classes in our schoolhouse free of charge.
“Art for all” is central to our work. We believe everyone deserves access to excellent art education and the opportunity to make things by hand. Through Turning Around Boston, we will reach an even greater number of children with the pleasures of craftsmanship and creativity.
Other Ways to Help:
Share the campaign: Let your friends know on Facebook, Twitter, on your blog, by email and by word of mouth. Share a link to our Kickstarter campaign and our project web page: eliotschool.org/turning-around-boston.
Encourage a Boston Public School or youth-serving non-profit to contact the Eliot School as soon as possible and hop on to the project for this October. We want to hear from as many schools and organizations as possible to participate in Turning Around Boston.
If you have a school-age child, talk with your principal or after-school coordinator and ask them to contact Alison Croney, of the Eliot School Partnership Program, to find out more: acroney(at)eliotschool.org, 617.524.3313
Spread the word widely about the value to children of hands-on learning, and the value to schools of including art and woodworking as part of the education of every child.
Visit our website to find out
teaching and volunteer
Turning Around Boston is designed to sow seeds for increased hands-on learning for Boston schoolchildren. After October, we will follow up with participating schools to talk about further woodworking collaborations. We will compile documentation that we will distribute to schools that did not participate, in hopes to pique their interest. Documentation will also help us attract funding for future school collaborations.
The Eliot School will continue its 100+ year commitment to teaching craft and creativity to students of all ages. We will continue to bring high quality classes in woodworking and art into schools and non-profits serving children of all income levels. In the 2013-14 school year, we are specifically working to expand our partnerships with middle schools, exposing young adolescents to skills and opportunities in hands-on learning.
Thank you for supporting this project! Your support improves the quality of education – and quality of life – for hundreds of Boston schoolchildren. And you are planting seeds that we hope will grow children’s access to hands-on learning – regardless of ability to pay – for years to come.
Risks and challenges
Our main challenge will be convincing enough schools to sign up for Beth’s free one-time visits in October. The turn-around time for signing up schools is short. Program Coordinator Alison Croney has already signed up a number of schools and organizations, and will spend September signing up more.
Our second challenge will be raising enough funds to visit all the sites we want. If we raise fewer funds, we will scale back the number of schools Beth visits.
Altogether, our risks are few. Turning Around America’s first project: Mobile Workshop is a proven model for Turning Around Boston. Beth has experience teaching 2,000 people in one year using this model. The Eliot School has a strong track record of work with our existing school partners, and a strong network of relationships in the school system. Our School Partnership Program earns consistently high marks for quality, effectiveness and responsiveness to schools’ needs.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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