Students compare Renaissance-era tools to modern ones
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The pieces to the bookcase lay before Rifle Middle School students Ryan Funes and Allison Cain. They carefully measured their boards, precisely placing the drill bit to make their hole.
Then they drilled, and they drilled, and they drilled, only to find they had a hole about half the depth they needed.
“I think you should drill,” said Funes to Cain. “You’re taller and can get better leverage.”
The duo used a hand drill representative of those used in the Renaissance era, rather than a power drill, to make their hole, and it took a little longer to finish. Students in Kennon Snead’s seventh-grade social studies classes were testing the technology of the Renaissance era against that of modern day as part of their history unit focused on the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Students had the option of constructing bookshelves for classrooms, or T-stools that students use to balance on when they are fidgety.
“In the Renaissance era, they had advancing technology from the Middle Ages,” explained Funes. “They had more creative solutions that made life easier. The tools were effective, but they take more time to use (than current technology).”
As part of their wood working projects, they had to use both Renaissance-era technology and current technology.
“I wanted them to use Renaissance-era tools and modern tools to compare their differences,” said the Rifle Middle School teacher. “I also tried to find projects that could be used by Rifle Middle School teachers so that the finished products could stay here at school.”
The Renaissance started in Italy in the late 14th century and had spread to the whole of Europe by the 16th century. During this period, a set of tools might include a set of chisels including flat, pointed, and round-ended, a mallet used to strike the chisel, hand drills and hammers.
“We have discussed how people during the Renaissance enjoyed many more technological advances than people during the Middle Ages. We found a handout illustrating tools that would have been used to build Renaissance era cathedrals and realized that kids could use very similar tools to build simple wood working projects,” said Snead.
Building materials in the Renaissance era consisted of mud, stone and wood, said Snead, and he thought wood would be a great medium for students to work in as part of the project. One of the greatest challenges was to make the project kid-friendly since many of the students had never used tools before. The unit focused on helping students understand how science, technology and economic activity have developed, changed, and affected societies throughout history.
Funes and Cain got the point quickly as they used the hand drill.
“People who invented stuff made life easier. We see a big difference in using the newer technology,” said Funes.
“When you are using the older technology,” added Cain, “you have to do the work. Using the newer technology, it does a lot of the work for you.”
Valley Lumber in Rifle donated the wood for the project, and final touches will be put on the bookcases and T-stools shortly.
“I liked seeing how excited the kids acted and how engaged they were. Many of them were really focused,” said Snead.
Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services.
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