The Kids’ Experience
(This Ocean Grove Charter School class was on April 24, 2017):
The students smashed up a pile of simple river rocks and slate stones to acquire the triangle or ax shape that they each wanted. Some kids said in various words that smashing the slate stones was somehow awakening, and even “stress relieving”. Next we cut branches to make handles, and some of the students became obsessed with using chunks of broken stone (technically “hand axes”) to scrape and cut the green branches. We tried learning how to cut rawhide into binding cords, but the younger kids had trouble cutting it thin enough. So we mostly used jute plant-fiber cord to “haft” (or lash) each child’s stone to their handle. The result was amazing. Looking at the tool that each child had made, we pondered how this was the original technology (even before fire and cooked meat) that fed the large caloric requirements of early humans with large brains.
Mentor’s Background Thought:
Flintknapping and prehistoric stoneworking is a real artisan skill. Decades ago I made and sold very serious stone-tipped spears and precisely flintknapped arrowheads on hand-made arrows. I even wrote articles that were published in several national hunting magazines. I would really love to teach advanced flintknapping now. But I prefer to instead teach kids to make simple stone-and-stick caveman axes. This is because I value the child having a manageable experience with flintknapping, not perfection. This is their life-journey into artisan skills, not mine. Kids need things that they can do with their own hands, to build their own confidence and skill. And as human parents, we need to allow them to experience their human heritage. Our young stone ax students deeply imagined that their ax is all-powerful in their hands. This teaches both confidence and responsibility. And it teaches reality… like when their ax breaks and then they need to be a big kid and fix it on their own.
A student of prehistoric stoneworking can do something almost as amazing as time travel. We can free our thoughts from the constraints of modern times. Quite amazingly, the students get to ponder their own DNA and origins, and attempt to understand how raw objects in wild nature can become useful tools within human hands. But this can’t really be explained with words. You have to go and do it. Inventors see ordinary objects outside of the constraints of time. Kids are born to be inventors and makers.