Being Crafty in School

It was a great way to start off 2016, by teaching blacksmithing to my daughter’s class (Reception, 4-5 year olds)  at The Marist Primary School in West Byfleet, Surrey.

After hearing about the lack of craft being taught in state schools, we decided to offer an introduction into the Basic’s of blacksmithing and spend some time with the kids, talking about what we do and drum up some interest in our craft.  Our introduction began with a slide show to the whole year, talking about what blacksmiths do, what metals is, the role of the village blacksmith, what we make as contemporary Artist/Blacksmiths and the tools we use, bringing in a variety of hand tools for them to see and hold.

The village blacksmith

This lead to some great discussion and wonderful answers.  When asked if anyone knew what an anvil is used for (showing a picture of my anvil), a little boy raised his hand and answered, ‘for dropping from the sky on birds’ … meep meep! And when the talk finished, we asked who was going to be a blacksmith when they were older and every hand went up except one… our little daughter, who clearly knew better!

Bex Simon Teaching Reception Class in school

Bex Simon Teaching Reception Class in school

Over the following month we took weekly craft sessions with smaller groups of the students.  As the students have been learning about space, planets, stars and astronaut, following Tim Peak’s mission to the space station, we wanted to carry this theme on.  So, our mission was to make our own asteroids, planets, satellites and all sorts of weird and wonderful creations.  However, instead of getting sixty, 4-5 year olds heating metal to about 950 degrees C, we decided to use plasticine, as metal moves in very much the same way when at a yellow orange heat.  Also, having seen little hands picking up our rather large and heavy tools, we brought in tiny ball pein hammers, and little hand chisels and punches we made specially (seeming as blacksmiths are very used to making new tooling for each job) with mushroomed ends to help prevent them missing the top of the tool and hitting the hand (which I frequently still do).

Bex Simon Artist Blacksmith holding baby tools

The pupils just got stuck in, swinging the hammers, using the correct way of holding it, splitting, punching, tapering and twisting the plasticine. The noise level was particularly high on a Tuesday afternoon but the creative buzz was great to be a part of.  Admittedly, I would have loved to have got the kids doing more of the 5-6 basic techniques properly, but they can join the Advance Design Forgework Skills course at Hereford and Ludlow College when they have left school 😉

Once all the pieces have been made by the children, we are makinfg them in to a space scene using black card and chalk and then each one will be photographed and made into a poster for each class.  Here is one in progress.

The class space scene

We really hope that maybe this early introduction to a craft like blacksmithing will stay with them and hopefully light a little spark that will be continued later on in their lives.


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