The rhythmic tapping of a hammer against heated steel echoed in the courtyard as fifth-grade students learned the art of blacksmithing. The workshop program is part of the school’s partnership with Mystic Seaport for students in Grades 4 and 5.
On a chilly, yet sunny morning, groups of students along with Grade 5 teachers Lisa Collins and Monica Emanuelson gathered around a caged forge that reached 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, they first received a history lesson in blacksmithing, such as what tools can be constructed using this practice and the various techniques used to create different types of objects.
Chip, Mystic Seaport Museum’s expert blacksmith, has been visiting and teaching lessons at Hamden Hall for several years. He proceeded to demonstrate the process step-by-step including how to tend to the fire, pump the bellows, hold a hammer correctly, the motion at which to strike the metal, and how to rotate the object to achieve the desired shape.
“Being able to provide students with a hands-on learning opportunity to learn more in-depth about the old-world style of creating something without the use of power tools is exciting,” said Chip, the blacksmith instructor. “While it is a learned skill, there is a sense of pride in knowing you created an object and know that it works.”
Working in pairs of three, students put on a pair of goggles and heat protectant aprons to take turns at the workstation in front of the furnace. Chip held the hot piece of steel in place as students used their hammer to pound it into shape. Each group pair spent about 10 minutes striking the steel before moving on to the next group. By the end of the workshop, the students collectively created an “S”-shaped hook that they took turns passing around.
Speaking about the activity, one fifth grader said it was a little scary to be that close to hot metal, but gained confidence after striking the piece successfully a few times. She further noted “it was cool to create something” and her friends enjoyed the morning program as well.
Additional faculty members also joined in on the fun. Mrs. Schimelman 2002 and science teacher Steve Jewett helped Chip turn and shape the steel in the final steps.
The Mystic Seaport partnership allows learning to come to life for students through collaborative, dynamic activities that span several educational topics including history, science, geography, and more. Hamden Hall forged an educational partnership with the popular maritime history attraction nearly a decade ago.