Even though I am passionate about authentic learning, and my blog is focused on how important the authentic experience is, even I sometimes forget just how important!
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a glassblowing workshop. I have attended many craft workshops that in all actuality were demonstrations. The members of the audience sat and watched while the instructor completed the project.
In this particular workshop, it was not a demonstration, but a real hands-on experience. The glassblower was right there with you, but you were the one molding, turning, and creating the design on the glass. We picked the colors we wanted to use, learning about how colors change when heated. We learned how to add designs to the surface of the glass, actually using a nail on the end of a pole to scratch the design into the glass and move the glass around on the surface. And we learned the techniques to blow the glass into the shapes we wanted. (OK – the instructor was VERY hands on here, this takes a great deal of experience to get the shape you want. But he was really good at letting us “believe” we were actually doing this by ourselves!)
I honestly don’t remember ever being this excited or engaged during any other glass (or craft) workshop that I have attended. My engagement and ownership of the learning was real. I left with a deep understanding of how colors and designs are added to blown glass, and how different shapes are created – an understanding that I had not gained during previous “demonstration” workshops.
Working with two-thousand-degree glass is not an easy thing to do, and safety is a huge concern. This is probably why glass workshops I had previously attended were really just demonstrations. I left those “workshops” feeling entertained, but a little disappointed. (I almost didn’t sign up for this one because – been there, done that, but didn’t learn a lot.)
It certainly took more time, effort, and attention to safety to make this a real workshop, but the effort was well worth it. The other students attending this workshop all commented on how amazing it was and how they gained so much knowledge about glassblowing. (The ages of the “students” ranged from ten to sixty-five, and everyone was totally engaged.)
As I sat at home waiting for my beautiful creation to arrive in the mail (they had to be slowly cooled down over several days so that the glass didn’t shatter), I was reminded once again of the difference the true authentic learning experience makes.
And here it is! Please feel free to comment that it is the most amazing glass masterpiece that you have ever seen.