Deep-level involvement is always found at the woodwork benches. Children access the resources and tools independently, working safely and creatively at the very limits of their capabilities. The children choose to go to the work bench and can make whatever they want. Adults are available, when needed, to model skills and techniques, to give vocabulary, to encourage and to make suggestions. The interactions, therefore, allow the children to realise their ideas and to overcome any obstacles.
The assessment below demonstrates that the benefits of woodwork clearly outweigh the risks.
Woodwork is the perfect activity in which children can demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning:-
- playing and exploring - children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
- active learning - children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
- creating and thinking critically - children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
Also all the seven areas of learning in the current EYFS framework will be developed:-
With the use of real tools and hard wood, the muscles in the hands and arms become stronger and the children develop more control of these muscles. They learn to vary the amount of force used - with hammers and saws. They also develop hand-eye co-ordination in order to hit the nails. Fine motor control is developed as children hold the thin nails in place. Through experience they learn how to keep their fingers out of the way of the hammer.
Personal, social and emotional development
Children demonstrate deep levels of involvement when undertaking a woodwork task. It is often noticeable that children who normally will not persevere at a task are prepared to try for far longer at woodwork - perhaps because they realise it is something truly challenging but also "real". Children will return to unfinished work the following day if necessary. They learn to share and take turns, negotiating and discussing routines and rules. They learn how to keep themselves and others safe. They realise that a real hammer can do serious harm and they treat the tools with respect. They learn to follow agreed rules. Children who find it difficult to conform are often so keen to participate, that they do manage to comply with requests and boundaries at the woodwork bench - just so that they get their turn. They take great pride in their achievements and therefore their self-esteem is boosted. For most children woodwork is a new activity and therefore they are taking a risk just by becoming involved - they take further risks using the equipment but learn to do this safely and independently and the results are greatly appreciated.
Communication and language development
There is always a lot of discussion at the work bench and therefore language is developed. Children have to follow instructions and will often be heard explaining the rules to other children. They encounter problems all the time and discuss solutions. They explain what they are doing and learn the vocabulary associated with the activity.
With many activities for young children, the process is as important (if not more important) than the product. This is definitely the case when children are first starting at woodwork. They need to develop the techniques. Eventually, they will start to use their imagination, combined with their knowledge of the task, to plan what to make. With support, they will have learnt how it is possible to combine various materials and media and this will increase their options and possibilities. Many of the models become the starting point for a story which also supports creative development, as well as language skills.
Understanding of the World
Clearly through working with wood, the children will learn about its properties and the properties of other materials that they combine with the wood. They will learn about how to use tools and how to combine different materials. With appropriate interactions, they could learn about the source of wood and various types of wood. They will be experiencing the process of 'design, make, review'.
This pervades every aspect of the task - from experiencing the weight and size of the wood to deciding how many wheels to add to a truck. Children will be thinking about size and shape, as well as number. Again, with appropriate interaction, their thoughts can be vocalised, refined and developed.
Children will often combine mark-making with woodwork - adding drawn features to their models. They also add their name to ensure their work is not lost. They will use books to refer to for ideas or information. Many models will feature in stories and the literacy possibilities within this are infinite.
There are not many activities which appeal to so many children and have such broad and deep learning potential.