Monday, May 21, 2007

An older Dangerous Book

This month, the talk of the 'sphere, here, stateside, is the book, The Dangerous Book for Boys (which includes all manner of useful activities for kids of today, who otherwise are discouraged from behaving like the bold, industrious little b*stards that they so often are). I understand it offers plenty of projects and lore that many kids today would otherwise miss out on.

Well, in spending our day at the auction yesterday, Mom and I discovered an older, possibly equally coooool book, "Integrated Handwork for Elementary Schools." Don't laugh just because they've got a handful of copies, dirt cheap, listed at amazon. It's a neat old textbook for teachers, published in 1940 by Silver Burdett Company, authored by Loius V, Newkirk, Ph.D., of the Chicago Public Schools. And, when they say "handwork," they mean Handwork.

For example, the book includes the instructions on how to make a wooden rubber-band boat:

Boats. The construction of boats offers a valuable medium for manipulative expression, and can be correlated with transportation and science problems in the school. Page 202 shows two simple boats that can be made by primary-grade children and that are well suited to the interests and development of these children. The tools required are a crosscut saw, a sharp knife, a wood rasp, a brace and bit, and a small hammer.

The rubber-band boat, a flat-bottomed type, may be sawed from a flat piece of 1/2” or 7/8” softwood with a crosscut saw. The edges are then filed with a rasp and smoothed with sandpaper. The cabin is made from a block of wood. The funnels and portholes are made from 3/4” dowel rod. Brads spaced around the edge and strung with string or wire form a railing.

The boat is powered by rubber bands and driven by paddle wheels. A length of 3/8” dowel is slit at each end to receive flat paddles sawed from box wood. Two 1/8” holes are bored through the dowel at the points indicated on the drawing, to receive two rubber bands. Two 3/8” holes are drilled through the rear end of the boat and the dowel rod is inserted. A washer is slipped over each end and fastened with brads. The rubber bands are threaded through the dowel and hooked over the two open screw eyes located on the cabin as shown.

The boat may be decorated according to the children’s ideas and be painted with outdoor or deck paint, so as to be waterproof.
I'm sorry, but that's just way too spiffy a project. They'd never allow it in schoolrooms, these days, out of fear that some kid would feel excluded because he didn't live near an ocean so he couldn't understand the usefulness of a boat, or he didn't have a bathtub to float it in or some such nonsense.

This book also includes basic instructions on hammering and cutting metal, electroplating, making and operating marionettes, making cottage cheese (Mom won't let me try this -- something to do with her having had to smell this all the time when she was growing up on the farm), and building your own playhouse, complete with furniture. Not to mention machine knitting, basket and rug weaving, making your own cigar-box "banjo" and dowel-rod xylophone. And the requisite kite. Which toy my nephews bought, rather than try to construct on their own. Sigh.

One can only hope that children of the future will stumble across these kinds of books and ask why mummy and daddy never showed them how to do these things... and then promptly settle in to try them, themselves.

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