Function and Aesthetics: Defining Craftsmanship

Function and Aesthetics: Defining Craftsmanship

MacEachren, Zabe

Many experiential education programs are developed on pillars promoting craftsmanship. Changing cultural situations have altered both our definition of, and the experiences offered to, participants that influence their concept of craftsmanship. By using Kurt Hahn’s educational ideas, various experiences are explored and critiqued to determine what they offer the participant. Presented is an exploration of Kurt Hahn’s ideas and why they encourage the concept of craftsmanship to arise from craftmaking experiences.

Keywords: Craftsmanship, Skill and Care, Art, Craft, Technology

My friend was a well-seasoned Outward Bound staff working as a fellow guide taking a small group of university students canoeing. As we packed for our trips, she initiated a conversation with me about any extra equipment I was bringing along. She shared with me that, hidden in her day pack, was a bucket full of coloring markers, paint kits and books devoted to inspiring journal writing. She justified carrying the extra weight of these fine art supplies by extolling the value of personal reflection, creative endeavors and group dynamic activities such supplies would allow on the trip. I showed her the canvas bag that held the only extra items I would bring: my assortment of both flat and crooked-bladed knives, which would allow campers to carve hollows to make such things as spoons. I recounted my belief that a knife in the bush is as important as a pencil in the city. My experience had revealed that few people carry knives with them in the bush any longer, let alone use them for much beyond spreading peanut butter. I wanted the students I guided to reflect upon, and learn the skills associated with providing for themselves in a natural location. Whenever I could, I would role model using a knife wisely and would encourage my students to try carving. Our conversation ended with both of us realizing that our trip goals and guiding techniques were quite different, and that neither of us truly understood the logic that gave rise to the other person’s choices.

After our separate trips ended, when the small groups reunited as a class, students from my group told me of a conversation they had shared earlier with another group. They had heard that one group had forgotten to pick up its metal spoons after eating breakfast and departed for four days of camping with no eating utensils. This group ate its meals with improvised chopsticks, made with the only knife that happened to be brought by one of the group members. Facial gestures accompanied this story as my students imitated the frustration the others had expressed at having to eat such things as porridge and pudding with two sticks. Then my group members described the remarks and looks of awe on the faces of the other group’s members when one of the beautiful spoons carved on our trip was revealed.

Afterwards, I discovered that the guide of the chopstick-eating group had been my friend who preferred coloring markers to knives as extra trip items. Limited time never permitted us to fully debrief the outcomes that arose from the extra items we each chose to pack for our trip.


This incident raises questions concerning ideas associated with craftsmanship that arise from the making of crafts and art-based creations. Many people, including my friend, have informed me that one of the “pillars” of Outward Bound is craftsmanship, which originated from the educational ideas of Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound. The author is interested in understanding the skills of craftsmanship as they relate to wilderness guiding and environmental education. The growing trend in school curricula, to emphasize fine art and technology-based activities instead of craftwork, has led the author to complete a dissertation entitled, Craftmaking: A Pedagogy for Environmental Awareness. One part of this research dealt with the importance of craftmaking experiences in shaping people’s understanding of nature. Another part of the research considered Hahn’s emphasis on craftsmanship as it arose from craftmaking experiences, as distinguished from non-craftmaking activities, that still can result in hand-made items.

The author defines craft as an item that fulfills a function, requires the use of the hands to create, and uses materials identified as natural. It is uncommon for people today to collect material from the land, shape the material into a practical item, and then use that item. Before the Industrial Revolution, such experiences were common and likely played a significant role in shaping people’s understanding both of the world and of their notions of craftsmanship. Yet, current educators tend to facilitate activities that encompass broad notions of craftsmanship. These activities often involve skills associated with fine art, writing or journaling, or products made by technology, such as synthetic camping equipment. The informal polls the author has conducted in the university classes she has taught indicate that most students’ schooling emphasized fine art-based activities, rather than craftmaking activities. It is estimated that fewer than fifteen percent of students have ever made a craft, and even fewer have ever experienced collecting materials directly from the land. Until the time of the Industrial Revolution, the fundamental human experience that influenced civilization was craftmaking. Today, machines create the items of everyday existence. People purchase commodities so they can interact with equipment they do not need to know how to make. The experience of craftmaking has drastically diminished. The loss of such valuable experiences should lead educators to critically analyze the outcomes resulting from the fine art-based activities that have replaced craftmaking experiences and the skills required to use high-tech equipment in comparison to the skills required to make the equipment. Some of Hahn’s ideas will be used to explore such an analysis and support the character development resulting from craftmaking experiences that synthesize art and technology.

This article first examines Hahn’s concern regarding social “declines” of which one specifically relates to craftsmanship. second, Hahn’s description of craftsmanship deterioration is explored through accounts of his teachings, such as the educational value of “learning through” craftmaking experiences. Third, are descriptions of other social declines Hahn spoke of, and their relationship to craftmaking. The craftmaking context for the origin of some of Hahn’s ideas, such as “active citizenship” and “learning by doing,” is then discussed. The rationales for teaching through craft-making experiences conclude the article.

The Social Decline of Craftsmanship

Hahn frequently spoke about six social “declines” or “diseases” that occurred in his society, one of which was the “decline of skill and care” due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship (Richards, 1981, p. 21). When Hahn explained this decline, he told a story of a boy who produced a very shoddy piece of work.2 When Hahn asked, “Now this is really awful-aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” the boy grinned and replied, “It’s the genius of the British race [sic] to muddle through!” (Richards, p. 21). This reply deeply bothered Hahn because he realized that the boy, in his innermost heart, believed that important contributions could be made without skill or effort. To “muddle through” means “to succeed despite one’s inefficiency” (Thompson, 1996, p. 583). Hahn’s numerous recountings of this story emphasize a connection between acquiring craftmaking skill and the genius in people that allow civilizations to flourish. Increasingly, classifying a made item as either craft, art or technology has become a prevalent way of representing the item’s worth. Today, countries are considered “developed” according to the technology and art which their citizens produce. Currently, craft is devalued next to art, and art is devalued next to technology.

Distinguishing Art from Craft

The notions of genius and intellect that the Western world uses to distinguish an item worthy of being called art, instead of craft, must be understood in a historical context (Lucie-Smith, 1981, p. 160). The intellect became associated with fine art during the European Renaissance when the term “art” and “craft” became separated. Notions of art became identified with something capable of moving an item beyond the realm of utility into that of pure intellect. The establishment of a class system allowed a few elite citizens to support individuals while they made items that emphasized the aesthetic aspect of something. Today, an economic system exists that encourages items to be made that either satisfy the desire for sheer intellectual expression or serve sheer utility. After the Renaissance, skilled craftpersons found it more profitable to be paid by the elite to create art items instead of crafts the general population used. After the Industrial Revolution, it became more profitable to make items with machines, than by hand. Thus declined the specific craftsmanship skills that allowed a person to make something that could be deemed both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Blending Function and Aesthetics

Our notion of skill and craftsmanship has increasingly become associated with either the quality of usefulness, as evident through technology, or the quality of expressiveness, as evident in art. Perhaps, what should be asked is, where in education do learners acquire the traditional skill of blending the functional and aesthetic qualities of an item, and of what value is this blending skill? Have citizens in industrialized cultures been limited by experiences directed only at either fulfilling an intellectual craving or fulfilling a bodily need-and consequently, lost the ability to fulfill both needs at the same time? Hahn, who called himself “mechanically illiterate” (Miner & Boldt, 1981, p. 56), understood the importance of education that strengthened and balanced a person’s faculties. People developed an ability to balance faculties residing within themselves through making items that, at the same time, are deemed both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Hahn sent the “bookworms” to the workshop and had the practical children develop their powers of logical thought (Richards, 1981, p. 69).

The development of multi-faculties (affective, cognitive, psychomotor) is basic and integral to a craftmaking experience. The roots of the ingenuity associated with human history are well represented by developments in the crafts that blend new ideas with new techniques. Hahn’s concern about the British boy’s dismissal of ingenuity provides a reference to his understanding that great civilizations are built upon the ability to both conceive and create practical items. Experiential educators teach the skill of making fire by friction because they understand the way learners are empowered by acquiring a skill that recapitulates the incredible genius of people’s ability to use their hands; they make an item that provides warmth and feeds the soul, and that ultimately makes it one of the most powerful items that has shaped human civilization. Such hand-made items are creations that are capable of satisfying many needs; what is insignificant is whether the item is classified a technological tool, an artful expression, or a craft. The point is that human ingenuity is reflected in the simple acts of creation that are capable of fulfilling the many needs of both the body and the soul to live well.

Distinguishing Technology from Crafts

The experiences that educators offer students today are increasingly based upon digital or electronic technology that satisfies a very narrow purpose, or are based upon intellectual representations (i.e., fine art) that, in the author’s opinion, are incapable of nourishing the body. This trend means that the human relationship with the land has become superficial as technological travel equipment (e.g., GIS) and aesthetic representations of places we travel (e.g., pictures and writing) increase. Camping trips satisfy intellectual cravings for an apparent connection to nature, while the bodily connections are dependent on distant technologically-driven processes through high-tech camping equipment and trip food produced from beyond the immediate locale. These “invisible” processes and “materials” of technology encourage the idea that matter is dead and therefore people can manipulate, control and rise above it. Any materials unconsciously viewed this way readily become commodities. Wood becomes lumber instead of a part of a tree or forest. Parts of plants or animals become paints and dye of living parts of nature. Such distancing encourages artists and people captivated with technology to spend their lives seeking a connection to the land through abstract ideas and technological gimmicks that inhibit direct relationship to the land. Paintings and gadgetry do not directly feed the body; coming to know the world through artistic and technologically-based practices, alone, is limiting and unbalancing because such experiences encourage the distortion that the mind never needs to heed the body. Fine art and technology-based curricula do not directly fulfill the needs of the body, so they do not provide an experience that balances and unifies the needs of both mind and body.

In order to explain the loss of the holistic perception of the world due to the processes embedded in tools and their uses, philosophers describe various types of technology. Borgmann (1984) distinguishes between things and devices. he defines a thing as “inseparable from its context, namely, the world” (Borgmann, p. 41), and gives the example of a hearth in a home which provides a central focus around which work and leisure can unfold. Whereas he describes a furnace as a device that procures a commodity and in so doing “conceals” the machine involved (Borgmann, p. 42-43). Furnaces in buildings are seldom paid attention to; they do not provide the focus for social gathering.

Ursula Franklin (1990), another technology philosopher, discusses items by referring to the degree of holistic or prescribed processes involved. She states that a holistic process is important because it “leaves the individual worker in control of a particular process of creating or doing something” (Franklin, p. 19). Both Borgmann (1984) and Franklin use examples of crafts to describe their respective “thing” and “holistic” technological processes. A worthwhile exercise for experiential educators would be to ask them to describe their relationship to the materials they use in their practices. Are items “things” that provide connection to the world or “devices” that hide connection? Do acquiring and/or using these items convey a “holistic” context that explores connections to knowing the world, or a “prescriptive” process that limits identification with connections?

Craftmaking Experiences Lead Hahn to Understand Experiential Education

Hahn was well aware of how narrow the educational development of children had become due to the confines of classrooms and the pressure resulting from examinations. Richards (1981) notes that Hahn thought these restrictions interrupted the “ideal pasture” for learning (p. 16). Hahn and Joe NoId, the man with whom he worked closely in the development of the Outward Bound program, understood the ideas that “pre-empted the experiential concept of education” (Richards, p. 123). NoId referred to the way, with a growth in literacy and the power of the written word, the artificial structure of the classroom and its narrow emphasis on book learning evolved (Richards, p. 123). Richards describes how Nold’s explanation for the origin of experiential learning stemmed from the recognition of the holistic learning environment traditionally embedded in learning a craft (p. 123). “Traditionally, a boy learned alongside his father and a girl alongside her mother, an apprentice alongside the craftsman. It was not only skills that were learned, but also a spectrum of attitudes about the adult world” (Richards, p. 123).

Hahn used Plato’s ideas to develop a harmonious whole through a “well rounded” curriculum. Richards (1981) explains that Hahn’s educational approach was to blend the rational (reason), the spiritual (passion), and the appetite (concupiscence) that aimed to satisfy the bodily desires for a harmonized whole (p. 52-62). Instead of assessment through examination, Hahn highlighted the holistic aspect of undertaking and completing projects, many of which were craft-based, as a means of being evaluated. Unlike an exam which is limited to what can be recorded in words and numbers, a completed craft project demonstrates knowledge-knowledge that can never be solely expressed or understood through books or written text. Hahn must have implicitly recognized that the value of craftsmanship is derived from the total atmosphere of learning a craft, and that learning to make and complete a craft requires actions that demonstrate the balancing of many skills.

The skills exhibited in making a functional item (craft) are different from the skills required solely for creative expression (art). Mastering the skills to make a useful item allows the maker to offer to others the “gifts” embedded in the made item. For instance, if students learn to sew mukluks, then they are learning the skills required to keep their and others’ feet warm; they also acquire some knowledge of ways to do serviceable repairs in field situations. The ability to write a poem about the importance of winter boots, or to illustrate mukluks in a journal, requires skills, but these skills do not offer warmth to the body, just to the mind. Educators quickly learn that students function best when bodily needs are cared for. There is something to be said for activities that are capable of simultaneously fulfilling the needs of body and mind.

In the past, master craftspeople were men and women who had demonstrated the ability to make a variety of serviceable items within limited time or limited conditions. Often, the traditional crafts demonstrated a simple elegance and aesthetic care that did not compromise the item’s function. A wise educator should aim to draw out of a student this simple yet elegant sense of aesthetics during a craft-based program. Collecting the wood, and carving a spoon requires a student to begin to notice details of trees and the graceful curves and lines of a spoon’s design. On the other hand, buying a package of wooden spoons and having students spend their time painting colorful designs on the spoon’s surface does not encourage students to develop a sense of aesthetic that blends beauty and utility. When a paddle is broken on a trip, do you want participants to have the skill to talk poetically about a paddle, or even to paint an elaborate design on the broken paddle blade, or do you want them to have the skills to make a serviceable field paddle and the appreciation of the functionality and aesthetics in a well-made paddle? What types of skills are we, as experiential educators, encouraging in students through the challenges our curriculum offers? Hahn repeatedly stressed that students should practice and develop well-tried and proven skills that served not just an individual, but what he called the district.4 Such a mandate can be readily applied to the concept of craftsmanship as illustrated by the development of the ability to make practical outdoor travel equipment. Hahn had students make such crafts as rescue boats. Ensuring that a handmade item is not only useful, but also beautiful, allows a person to demonstrate respect for the sources of the materials (plants, animals) and for the people who must routinely use the item.

Hahn stressed that good ideas should be taken from wherever they can be acquired. “In education, as in medicine, you must harvest the wisdom of a thousand years” (Hahn quoted in Richards, 1981, p. 13). To emphasize this point, his lectures frequently followed this idea with the question: Would you want your appendix taken out by a surgeon in the most original way possible (Richards, p. 13)? Hahn recognized that originality was not to be emphasized or recognized as a sign of a good education, especially if it drew attention to an individual rather than to the community within which the new idea was to serve. Hahn encouraged wisdom to be uncovered from history instead of through fascination with modern novelty. Education was supposed to be about creating good citizens and not flamboyant individuals with novel gimmicks that drew attention to themselves.

Martin Flavin (1996) describes a story that accentuates Hahn’s dislike for many of the qualities that are currently represented in modern art. Peter Saunders, one of Hahn’s students who had a great deal of acting talent, was asked by Hahn to explain what he had chosen to do with his life. Saunders replied he wanted to act because he thought he would be good at it. Hahn then pleaded for him not to do this. When the young man asked Hahn why not, Hahn answered that it would ruin him because he was vain and flamboyant, and going to Hollywood would be the end of him. When Saunders then asked Hahn what he thought he should do instead, Hahn replied without hesitation, “You must take a piece of wood and saw through it carefully and well and when you hit a nail you must start again, without complaint” (Flavin, 1996, p. 72). After a long walk and deliberation on Hahn’s advice, Saunders realized there was much truth in Hahn’s response: he had little humility, craftsmanship bored him, and he had no patience. he never did venture into acting; at the age of twenty he painstakingly took up weaving and continued to do this craft all his life. Two decades later, Saunders commented to Hahn that his earlier advice to him had been astute and that he had become a weaver instead of an actor. To his astonishment, even after twenty years, Hahn criticized, “Yes, but a very flamboyant one.” Hahn’s dislike for the flamboyance and originality that emphasized the individual over the community was evident, and probably explained why craftsmanship, and not artistic skill, became pillars in many of the educational programs he helped found.

Hahn’s Other Social Declines: Their Relevance to Craftmaking

While only one of Hahn’s six social declines explicitly relates to craftmaking, other declines can be indirectly related. The current decline of fitness is not just due to modern transportation as Hahn noted, but also to the availability of power tools that eliminate the use of traditional, labor-intensive hand tools. Pre-cut lumber and ready-to-assemble kits do not allow a person’s body to benefit from what it takes to harvest wood from a tree, cut through its grain or split it along its fibers to prepare material for craftmaking. Such activities involve numerous poses and stances that nomadic-based craftmakers exercised when work-benches and vises were not available.5 Craftmakers’ mental and physical fitness was, to some degree, acquired through the practical exercise of traveling the land, gathering supplies, and learning through6 the forces of nature. For many craftmakers who still gather their own materials directly from the land, this is a critical and favorite part of the craft process that allows them to attune to nature in a manner that Hahn would probably have commended.

Hahn encouraged students to take long walks in solitude. The importance of this experience is still emphasized in the solos taken by Outward Bound students, and in the Education Guidelines established by Hahn in his first School, that encouraged students to experience silence (Richards, 1981, p. 205). What draws many people to craftmaking is the long periods of time that can be spent in quiet contemplation while hands are kept performing simple repetitive tasks. When such activities are done outdoors or with natural material in hand they can readily take on the quality of quiet reflection and meditation on nature.

Hahn’s “decline of initiative and enterprise,” developed in Western societies, is in part, due to the ease of acquiring material and the proliferation of commodities in the modern world. The incentive to make our own daily required items or camping equipment is removed when the items can be readily purchased at an inexpensive price or borrowed from schools, camps and outdoor programs. Many outdoor situations can be easily modified so that they compel youth to take the initiative to make an item critical for the successful completion of an activity. As both a children’s camp director and the co-coordinator of a university orientation camp, the author has required (actually compelled) many people to carve spoons by informing them that no metal utensils would be available for their use in the next few days. Frequently, in closing ceremonies at the summer camp, children expressed that carving their spoon was a personal highlight. University students used their journals to confide how they overcame their initial fear of using a sharp knife, and how they underestimated the challenge involved in carving a spoon. Hahn’s interest in compelling students into health-giving experiences would have supported the creation of situations where students were required to take the endeavor and demonstrate enterprise by making items they required. Conveniently supplying all required items to complete an activity reduces the learning potential embedded in Hahn’s expression “your disability is your opportunity” (quoted in Richards, 1981, p. 17) and, “Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege” (quoted in Flavin, 1996, p. 16). The experience of making items, instead of earning the money to purchase them, kindles a sense of initiative and enterprise. Embracing these ideas of Hahn raises the question: Why do so many adventure-based programs provide students with all the materials they require, instead of challenging them to repair the critical items?

Hahn addressed the “decline of compassion” by encouraging fellowship through service to other people. he frequently expounded upon this idea with his emphasis that all citizens should be trained in first aid. In today’s world-wide global market a decline in compassion is due to the distance created between maker and the consumer of an item. A sense of responsibility, to people who make crafts, to the crafts themselves, and even to the sources of the natural materials used in a craft, is developed when a person is involved in making an item. Through personal sewing experiences young people may realize that it takes hours to design, cut out and sew a shirt. Later, seeing a shirt being sold for only a few dollars, these more astute people may raise questions about inequalities in working conditions and pay. They may even ask questions pertaining to sweatshop labor and take action by changing what they purchase with their own spending money. Their awareness may extend to taking better care to preserve the longevity of an item they know someone labored to make. They may also choose to repair instead of discard an item because they readily associate the ecological impact embedded in the craft’s creation. Hahn would have supported appeals to, and challenges for, young people to change their attitudes and actions in order to display more compassion for others working conditions.

“Experience Therapy:” A Cure for the Declines

Fulfilling basic needs by making items is a fundamental experience that both individuals and cultures have used to define, to distinguish, and to provide meaning for themselves as humans (Berman, 1989; Burke & Ornstein, 1997; Morris, 1967; Spretnak, 1999). By making an item that is useful for another, the craftmaker is able to serve another, and in doing so craftmaking encourages a sense of active citizenship and promotes health in a community. Hahn’s “prophylactic cure” for all of the declines was what he called “experience-therapy” (Richards, 1981, p. 191). Involvement in craftmaking apprenticeships and completion of a craft-based project were the practical experiences many students were both verbally and physically compelled by their teachers to have in order to learn. In short, the creation of a craft became the microcosm that demonstrated the way living is taken up in the world.

Hahn’s interest in craftmaking as a learning experience may have arisen in his early discussions with Prince Max von Baden, the last Imperial Chancellor of Germany, when he wanted to establish a school in his castle. Hahn expressed an understanding of the social forces embedded in acts of craftmaking that give rise to a sense of citizenship, when he reiterates the thoughts of the prince’s reaction.

Your boarding school is only justified if it gives health to the district, I do not want the craftsmen to come into this Castle and teach in our atmosphere; I want you to send the boys to the craftsmen of the surrounding villages-the carpenter, the blacksmith, the wheelwright, the wood-carver, the sculptor, the engineer and the locksmith. You will find that the good artisan has a greater horror of unfinished work than the schoolmaster, (quoted in Richards, 1981, p. 42)

Hahn’s concept of education was simple-it was to develop a person to be righteous, vigilant, and an active citizen who had a sense of duty to his fellow person and to God (Richards, 1981). To Hahn, craftmaking aided students in this endeavor because the experience emphasized learning a practical skill, taking care and being of service to others.


Hahn never explicitly distinguished between craftmaking and art-or technological-based endeavors. Yet the stories about Hahn and the ideas he expressed tend to emphasize the values of craftmaking experiences rather than other art-based activities. Hahn demonstrated an unwavering commitment to using craftmaking experiences as a means to develop personal skill, commitment, patience, love of nature, good moral character and, most importantly, a sense of active citizenship. He was interested in practical experiences that rooted people to the idea of serving others and their community. This concern naturally results when making functional crafts that serve their users. Hahn ultimately students to recognize and respect the “skill” a craftsperson develops in order to serve fellow citizens. To this end, he emphasized the value of, and compelled students into, experiencing an understanding of craftsmanship derived from the experiences of craftmaking.

As experiential educators, we should reconsider the significance of including in our curricula the making of well-designed practical items that can develop in students a sense of service to their community, and also a sense of satisfaction in their aesthetic sensibilities. A craftmaking experience satisfies needs without drawing attention to specific individuals and their vision. The skill and care associated with developing an understanding of craftsmanship should be more than just an outlet for personal expression. In a world of limited resources and constant pressure to industrialize, an educational experience is required that draws attention towards practical and appropriate ways to fulfill both basic human and communal needs. Developing the skill and care associated with craftsmanship can serve these purposes.


1 Sometimes people who complete a craft for their first time, such as carving a paddle, and are surprised and perhaps even proud of their effort. As a reaction, they may also express that they have no intention of using the item, but instead just want to display it. These individuals will have only a fraction of the total craftmaking experience if they only display the items; using them would give them a more meaningful connection with the natural world.

2 William Morris, founder of the British Arts and Craft Movement (1860-1920), expressed a similar concern to Hahn’s about the poor quality of abundant goods resulting from industrial processes while skilled craftspeople were in decline. Hahn was probably familiar with, and may have been influenced by, William Morris’ work.

3 Today the division between art and craft is unclear. In an attempt to gain prestige, many contemporary craftmakers continue to use the materials that classify what they make as a craft (clay, wood and fiber) yet make functionless items that might be accepted as art by a gallery.

4 Stetson (n. d.), comments upon the ways Hahn encouraged other outdoor programs to adopt many of the Outward Bound principles. he states, Hahn once said, “Don’t do anything unless it can be imitated” (p. 13). The development of craftmaking skills in various trades is based upon some repetitive practices that encourage a person to make numerous imitations of an item. Such constant practicing embeds in a person fundamental physical movements and design patterns.

5 Craftspeople who make things in the field are much more adept at using various parts of their body in a variety of ways to hold an item and move it around. I once watched a seventy-year-old man balance and bounce up and down on a narrow one-inch wide piece of birch wood as he proceeded to bend it into the proper shape to make snow-shoes. This act required as much physical skill as many low ropes initiative tasks.

6 Hahn believed his programs existed not to train youth to be mountaineers, or for careers at sea, but to be active citizens. The objective was the strengthening of the individual through contact with the forces of nature (Richards, 1981, p. 112). he raised this point by emphasizing specific words in his speeches such as, not “training for the sea” but rather “training through the sea” (p. 88). Students learn through the land, when they manipulate clay and metal and conform to the grain of wood when carving. The materials involved in craftmaking provide an encapsulated landscape through which students learn.

7 Hahn clearly acknowledged the difference between forcing people into opinions and compelling them into experience. he stated, “We believe that it is the sin of the soul to force the young into opinions, but we consider it culpable neglect not to impel every youngster into health-giving experiences-regardless of their inclinations” (quoted in Richards, p. 148). “Health giving” was later changed with Hahn’s approval to “value-forming” to better suit the American Outward Bound program (Miner & Boldt, 1981, p. 54).


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Zabe MacEachren, Ph.D., is a Professor and Coordinator of the Outdoor & Experiential Education Program in the Department of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She can be reached at: maceache

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