A child development specialist with a love for teaching craftsmanship

Francis Wardle

Francis Wardle 1947 –

Francis Wardle grew up on the Bruderhof and then left, as a young man, to pursue a career in education. He has a PhD in child development and early education from the University of Kansas, and has been a Head Start volunteer, education coordinator, director, and national reviewer. He has taught preschool, kindergarten, and first through fourth grades. 

As I look back on my life, I realize how formative my childhood on the Bruderhof was, especially the hands-on skills I learned. My first woodwork lesson as a young boy is a vivid memory: our teacher, Owen, showed us how to make toast boards. Mine was not very square and the rounded corners looked odd. But I was hooked on woodwork! 

As I grew up, I enjoyed other woodwork classes taught by different teachers. I also loved to wander into Harry’s carpentry shop, smell the rich aroma of newly carved wood, and watch his gnarled hands magically transform a nondescript piece of wood.

Fast-forward to my career as an early childhood teacher and administrator: I discovered that my love of carpentry could be used to design and build playgrounds for young children. I built playgrounds for hospitals and a variety of early childhood programs in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as in three Colorado locations: Denver, Greeley, and Commerce City.

I also designed and built a playground for a créche (a nursery or childcare center) in the middle of Brazil! Was that an adventure! I couldn’t speak Portuguese, I was not familiar with the metric measuring system, and the wood used for construction in Brazil is totally different from what I was used to. But eventually, with the help of local volunteers and funding from Partners of the Americas, we built a playground using ipe wood and eucalyptus posts, car tires, chain, sand, and slate (to retain the sand).

Schoolchildren work on their wilderness survival skills.

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