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Give a kid a hammer

Not too long ago that I was talking to a friend who was having some minor plumbing issues at his house; leaky taps, toilet constantly running etc. He said he couldn’t believe how his father-in-law had come over and “just knew what to do”. He said he watched and could probably do it again the next time.

I reflected on this and thought to myself that my own knowledge and understanding of tools has changed over my life.

When I went to kindergarten, I remember making a Space Ghost wrist band complete with buttons - designed and made using cotton reels, wood, hammer and nails. I selected all of the right tools for the job and when completed the teacher tied it around my arm. I was proud as punch.

When I went to school we no longer used tools and when I say tools, I mean screwdrivers, drills, hammers and saws. It wasn’t until Technology in high school that some of those tool came back. I am guessing that a lot of the students had dads that built things with their children using tools - I guess many other students didn’t. I was never really very good with my hands, so I did what I had to do to get by in technology classes. I can’t say I came out really knowing how to use tools.

When I studied teaching in the 90’s there was a bit of a push to bring technology back to the classroom and even in my Technology tutorials we had tool boards. We cut balsa wood to make playground equipment in one task, but then the too boards disappeared. The first school I ever taught at was pretty much brand new and they were on the Technology bandwagon at this time. They had a Technology Room which was similar to the room that was at my university. This was deconstructed and turned into a computer room. I think that this is a commentary of the slippery slope we have slid down since. Have we found ourselves in an era of health and safety where it is too risky to use tools in the classroom? Are they obsolete?

I guess at the age of 30 I was able to make a balsa wood model slide for a playground but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to fix a tap. Then I was forced into some situations where I needed to start learning about how to do things for myself. It is never too late after all. Buying a house is one of those things. I started to build things, help build things, patch things and help patch things and like my mate, I started to learn how to choose the right tools for the job. I still ring my father-in-law who has guided me over the last 8 or so years in how to fix things and I certainly still have a long way to go! I have since built a cubby house for the kids and a few other things.

The best bit was the other day when I was introduced to someone who was custom-building the furniture for their house and a comment was made “You and Pete will get along… he likes building too.” I certainly couldn’t custom-build my own furniture….yet.

Over the last few of years there has been a big resurgence in STEAM, MakerEd and a stack of other different digital/making creating ideologies that have been a really positive step for education to break the mold a little but I still wonder… what about the tools? If we are setting kids up for lifelong learning shouldn’t we be teaching them the differences between screws and nails? So many kids are yet to realise that the claw on the back of the hammer is purposeful. If we are teaching students about quality design surely teaching them about the different tools and simple machines that have stood the test of time and are the foundations of engineering is a must. Simple design was what fuelled Steve Jobs’ success.

Even on a smaller scale, if we truly are teaching student’s lifelong skills. Wouldn’t it be great if they all knew how to fix a leaky tap, build a quality product out of wood or fix a broken chair?

I say we start the BuilderEd Revolution! Maybe it’s more of a resurgence than a revolution?


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