In Defence of Crafts

A few weeks ago one of my fellow Guiders was telling me about her latest Guide meeting.  One comment struck a particular chord:

 “Last [night] one of my Guides was stressed that she hadn’t finished her craft. When I offered to give her supplies to finish it at home, she told me she’s not allowed to do crafts at home. When asked why, she said her mum says “crafts don’t get you anywhere.” She is 9.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. My initial gut reaction: crafts are awesome! I am admittedly a sucker for arts and crafts, but I disagreed wholeheartedly with this comment.  However, despite the surprising nature of this parent’s opinion, I don’t believe it is unique.  There is incredible pressure on girls and young women to succeed academically, and unfortunately arts and crafts are not always seen as academically valuable – despite the fact that they contribute to intellectual development in a wide range of ways!

Arts and crafts help build many skills, including visual thinking, fine motor skills, pattern recognition, and observation.  They help children to develop self-esteem, patience and self-regulation.  Furthermore, they provide an outlet for creative stimulation. As Guiders, I feel like we have been presented a wonderful opportunity to ignite a passion for arts and crafts, whether it is beadwork, painting, drawing, dancing, woodwork, music or singing.  We can empower girls and young women to achieve their highest potential by encouraging them to be creative participants in the scientific fields!

Erin Hamanishi Pic 2

Furthermore, the skills, knowledge, techniques, concepts and creativity that come along with arts and crafts make new science and innovation possible.  Within the various branches of Guiding, there is a continued commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and learning.  Encouraging and engaging girls and young women in the world of science and technology is awesome. However, we must remember to integrate the two: crafts and STEM!

If we think of some of the most successful scientists throughout history, many have valued the importance of creativity. Albert Einstein, well-known for his work in theoretical physics, once said, “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well” (as cited in Kaplan, 2001).

So, as we sit down to make our next camp hat craft, don’t forget that arts and crafts are never far from STEM!  Maybe Brownies will want to know what makes glitter glue so sticky, or maybe the Guides will want to know how the fun-foam shapes were manufactured, or maybe Pathfinders might be interested in the chemical properties of the dyes used in tie-dye.  My challenge for you: can you spot the science, technology, engineering and math within every arts and craft activity?

By guest blogger Erin. Erin is a Guider with the 15th Toronto Pathfinder-Ranger Unit, an admitted craftaholic and a recent PhD graduate from the University of Toronto (in science, of course!).

Guide Camp 2012 by pinksox aka Erin HamanishiReference cited in blog post: Kaplan, R. (Ed.) (2001). Science says: A collection of quotations on the history, meaning, and practice of science. New York: The Stonesong Press. p. 37.

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cross-canada-challenge-alasie-territoriesWhat’s New with Girl Guides? On June 21st, Canadians from all walks of life are invited to participate in the many National Aboriginal Day events that will be taking place from coast to coast to coast. We’ve highlighted a select number of related girl programming activities that you could do with your unit to learn more about the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

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5 Responses to In Defence of Crafts

  1. Tara L. says:

    Erin, I totally agree with you about arts and crafts. They do help build skills, self-confidence and creativity in children. Why else would they do so many crafts in school? My daughter is constantly creating her own things at home out of boxes, tissue, ribbons, paper – whatever she can get her hands on. And while as a mother, the mess that she makes and the stuff she leaves lying about the floor of her bedroom drive me crazy – I know that it is an important outlet for her creativity.

  2. Michelle says:

    I love your response. Did you end up talking to the parent at all? Did she take the things home in the end?
    I’m a guider in Ottawa with the same ages, a craft-a-holic always trying some new skill and PhD student in biochemistry. I always try to sneak in the STEM into program since the girls are constants compaining “math is hard” and “I hate science”. It breaks my heart since there is so much math and science in every day things. I try to explain stuff in terms they understand but still get “the look” that pre-teens have mastered so well. Knitting, crochet and beading are examples of patterns that I wish we had the time, patience and resources to teach our girls. Friendship bracelets teach similar skills. Even something like explaining why you can’t use hot glue on mylar wrapping paper was a teachable moment last year.
    Thank you for posting this and for reminding us that girls can do whatever they want to in life and that sometimes that also includes things like arts and crafts if that is what they choose!

    • Michelle, thanks for your comments. I love your comment about the hot glue and mylar wrapping paper; I had a very vivid image of the crinkling of the mylar!
      The aforementioned quote was from a fellow (and fabulous) Guider. She works with the Guide unit who meets in the room next to “my” pathfinder group. I know that she handled the situation really well! And is/was a proponent of crafts!
      (I love crafts and would probably encourage crafting every meeting if my pathfinders didn’t remind me that they like to do other things too!)

  3. srdiane says:

    Teachable moments do have a habit of showing up at odd times, we were melting leftover candles from church for lint/egg carton fire starters, on the edge of the fire grate, the tin slipped when she was trying to take it off, poof!

    With my group I’ve changed to a lot more free artwork since some the first year I ran the unit had no idea how to not follow directions. They made homemade ‘chia pets’ with grass seed in stockings but decorate them however they want, watching them struggle with that ‘however they want’, makes me continue in that fashion. On the other hand we also did our Tasty Treats and Kitchen Creations badges where they learned that sometimes following directions are very important (cakes) and other times less so (salad).

  4. Laura Keller says:

    I agree with the previous comments about the connection between crafts and other subjects. That said, when did it become a bad thing to just have some fun? My group of Pathfinders LOVES crafts … we laugh and talk … sometimes the crafts are easy, sometimes they are difficult (picture intense concentration with tongues maybe sticking out). Often they connect to a “bigger” issue, but sometimes they don’t. And I’m fine with that.

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