The Power of Hands-On Learning

Here at Parker, we believe in the power of learning by doing. At all ages, and across all grade levels, Parker students are consistently immersed in hands-on learning activities that engage their senses and encourage them to explore their environment. Kinesthetic learning stimulates creativity, problem-solving, spatial awareness, and organization – all skills that lead to more confident, prepared, and capable learners.
Hands-on learning strengthens mastery in all academic subjects. However, as a school that prepares students for all real world challenges, we also believe in expanding student opportunities to include important trade skills. For example, fiber arts have long been a beloved part of many lower school classrooms, with students learning wool-working, knitting, sewing, crocheting, and quilting. Likewise, during our annual STEM week our middle school students have tackled metal work (creating our copper wind turbines), carpentry (constructing our gaga pit), and bridge building.
As you can imagine, undertaking these large, complex, and sometimes messy projects inside our building can be difficult. Which is why we are elated to finally be transforming our red barn into a dedicated workshop for teaching and executing hands-on building projects. Over the summer, we emptied out the excess furniture stored during the pandemic, and Parker art teacher Claire Sherwood spent her fall ordering and outfitting the space with necessary equipment. 
Shortly before the holidays, we took a huge step towards completion when the generous benefactor who originally envisioned and donated this space came back to also donate his lifetime supply of wood-working tools. During his visit, he also met with our 7th grade class and demonstrated how to use some of the machines, telling our students, “The realization of this building is one of the greatest things I’ve done with my life. If you can learn to work with your hands, you can work with each other, and then there is nothing you can’t do.”

As we zealously work towards completion of our woodshop, Claire has already begun incorporating elements of this curriculum into some of her art classes. Thanks to a crew of volunteers from Curtis Lumber in East Greenbush, led by manager Carl Gray, our Parker 1-2’s recently had the opportunity to jumpstart their own wood-working enthusiasm. Just before break, Carl and crew visited Claire’s classes to lead a toolbox building workshop. Our first and second graders were over the moon with enthusiasm to work with tools and brimming with pride at their accomplishments.

Carl reflected on the day, saying, “I love introducing hand tools to the kids, especially the hammer. Many of them like to SWING IT. I also love watching their excitement in the project and getting it done, and their willingness to help others around them.” Carl further explained, “Of course, the bigger importance is giving kids early exposure to woodworking and the trades. Allowing kids to see, hear about, feel, and build a toolbox with a hammer and screwdriver will spark their interest moving forward. My hope is that kids will take away any interest at all in working with their hands. I hope they share the experience with their parents, and that encourages them to do more projects in the future, whether at school or at home.” 
As for our students, their learning was palpable and imprinted. I followed up with the group this week to see what they remembered, and they were eager to share: “I learned how to straighten something if I accidentally built it crooked.” “I learned that the back of a hammer is ALSO a tool!” “I learned that when you turn a screw, going left makes it looser and going right makes it tight.” “I learned how to fix a crooked nail.” “I learned that I need to keep watch so that the end of my nail doesn’t pop through the wall and into thin air!”
We are so grateful to Carl Gray and Curtis Lumber for their dedication of time, talent, and energy in sharing their knowledge and skills with our students. Additionally, the acquisition of our beautiful wood shop would not have been possible without the generous support of an anonymous donor, whose values are very much in line with our mission here at Parker School. His gifts are made in honor of the spirit and educational intent of Mrs. Fernande Marie Berube. We look forward to all the news adventures, partnerships, and learning to come from this new workshop enterprise. 
STEPS FOR BUILDING A TOOLBOX**According to the Parker 1-2’s
Lay your bottom piece of wood flat. Take your two long rectangle sides and nail them to the long sides of the bottom.Take the two side walls that look like a house and hammer them into the bottom. Then hammer all the sides together.Get the handle and put it between the pointy tall sides. Screw it in with one screw on each side.Color, paint, or decorate your toolbox!