Each pupil spoke a little English, my German is pretty much non-existent which is rather awkward in this situation - I wish I had learnt more languages at school! We had a translator for the day in German/English teacher Ludovic who was able to communicate all the bits I was worried about, mainly the health and safety part!
The school hadn't realised quite how hands on they would be with the metal work, it was a revelation to discover all the forging equipment in the playground and that they would be working the forge themselves.
We started with a demonstration for forging, we were making one of their own designed birds so I used that design as an example of how to forge the shapes we needed.
Each pupil was able to make a feather from sheet copper, cutting and working the metal to finish with delicate formed feathers with loads of hammer detailing. The pupils then worked with me on the forge to finish forging their bird from 8 mm round bar, forging tapers, flattening and texturing them and bending the bar to the required shape with scrolling horns and over the bick.
It was a really successful day in school, the pupils were fantastic and loved what they achieved. Both staff members had a go at forging and contributed to their bird. They were properly impressed with the set up, organisation and kit available which was really nice for me to hear!
They don't do hot metal work in schools in Germany, much like in the UK where it has been squeezed out through prioritising 'resistant materials' work in plastics and wood. They also don't have the metal working tools or equipment available to them in schools and would also find health and safety restrictions on what they would as teachers be allowed to do with heat. They do some work with brass; machining and polishing.
For Germany and in the UK the important issue of who would teach metal working skills in schools, there aren't the people going into teaching with the relevant skills because they aren't taught it themselves at school. It's a no-win situation really and will be irreversible soon. It is such a shame to see hand skills and craftsmanship lost to the computer orientated skills, there should be a place within education to learn both at some stage in a child's education.
There is a whole section of young people out there that would have benefited from doing hands on metal working and wood working; making, doing and learning with their hands. It feels like 'hand-skills' is a dirty word within the education system; that it is not progressive enough? It can be progressive and when combined with modern engineering the opportunities for learning are boundless.
There is nothing wrong with learning traditional skills, there is a place for them in our educational and wider world as much as there are people out there who will be fantastic craftsmen and women for the future. We just need to introduce them to the opportunities of trying it out as young people when they are at school.
Today's after school session in the rain saw Mrs Chislett finally get to forge her very own feather, having watched demo's by me all last week, i set her loose on the forge and away she went, very successfully making her feather with texture and shape just like a pro! There will be no stopping her now! A much deserved making session of her own after 7 days of being my runner and assistant! We also had 3 lovely ladies come and make copper feathers and forge a point before the rain stopped us and dampened the coal a little too much!