Learning as tool-making

The other night I had dinner with a couple of friends. One is a farmer in Oregon.  He was on the east coast for a conference for small farmers held at the Stone Barns Center, where he was leading a session on tool-making.

This isn’t some kind of throwback, Luddite approach. He was talking about inventing: designing and building implements that address needs or problems that small farmers come across in the course of their work. For that to happen, a whole lot of learning has to occur. You have to know what your problem is. You have to know what a solution would look like. And you have to develop and test the tools you make to see if they solve your problem. In the course of all of that, you begin to identify properties, tendencies, patterns. From these, you develop ideas about how things work.

This is the type of learning we think should be at the center of school. And it’s why we think of the school as a Workshop.