Franklin Academy Knapping Class/Demonstation Report
Franklin Adademy, Bellingham, WA December 4, 2019
Hosts - Barry Bonnell (Puget Sound Knappers) and Tanya Miller (Franklin Academy)
We applaud professional educator Tanya Miller and the support she is provided by The Franklin Academy. By inviting Knappers from the Puget Sound Knappers Association (PSK) to share Neolithic disciplines with their 6th grade students in the Design Thinking course, Ms. Miller and her school encourage unique, hands-on experience in stone age arts. While doing so, Ms. Miller and Franklin Academy provide a marvelous environment for their charges to learn and expand themselves in ways that very few students enjoy. That rare atmosphere is wonderful for rounding education and developing thoughtful, broad-minded, and participatory students.
Our gracious host, Ms. Miller, welcomed us warmly and she, with her students, helped PSK representatives Christi Christensen, Bob Bower, Jim Smith, and Barry Bonnell to set up the room in which the students had just occupied. While our usual practice is to prepare a vacant room in advance, set-up, in this case, was accomplished in just a couple of minutes, due to the enthusiastic support of the entire class.
Examples of stone-age weapons (antler hafted knife, atlatl with a dart, and an arrow) were passed around for inspection while Bob Bower lectured on the history and importance of stone tools. Bob then demonstrated percussion flaking of an obsidian cobble and followed with a demonstration of pressure flaking.
Newcomer to PSK, Christi Christensen is an accomplished knapper, having been taught by the renowned master-knapper, Craig Ratzat. Christi is also an accomplished knapping instructor and she demonstrated her skills and knowledge by inserting valuable commentary at appropriate stages of the opening conversation, as well as providing effective hands-on instruction to her attentive students.
Bob Bower, Jim Smith, and Barry Bonnell split up the remaining students and two hours of instruction passed in a blink. Virtually all of the students were able to use loaner tools provided by Jim Keffer to successfully remove flakes from obsidian spalls, also provided by Jim Keffer. A few students were actually able to complete effective scrapers, and some even had a point when class was over. All students left with their work after the instructors dulled all edges with abraders. There were a few expected cuts from class, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The kids were great. Very alert, focused, and patient. They waited for their turn for personal instruction and applied what they learned very well. Once they grasped a concept, they were each able to work on their own for appreciable lengths of time. We, the instructors, were all quite surprised at the level of competence that the students exhibited. These students are truly exceptional, and they have an exceptional teacher in Ms. Miller.
We believe that the exercise taught the students not only methods of producing ancient stone tools but also gave them a better understanding and appreciation of their stone-age ancestors. We believe that knowing where one came from is valuable in determining who one is.
When time was up, we presented a display case, also provided by Jim Keffer, to Ms. Miller as a remembrance of our time together. The 8” x 12” Riker case held a PSK logo patch and three finished points that represented a spear point/knife, an atlatl point, and an arrowhead.
From Tanya Miller
I wanted to extend sincere gratitude for your visit yesterday; it's all the 6th grade can talk about right now. Today in class I watched many students carefully studying their pieces and sharing what they learned. A few found really hard stones and are trying to work the rock "like the people did back then."
The cuts are definitely badges of honor and many of the students have already asked their parents for knapping supplies so they can continue what they learned. I can see that they're inspired and I believe that learning these skills, and the persistence and focus that went with them, will stick with them for a long time. You definitely made a significant difference in their lives!
All of the students are proudly signing the back of the display you so generously presented to us so that future students can see who got to participate in this really exceptional experience.
Very sincerely, and with a huge smile on my face,