How Shaping Wood Can Shape a Child’s Success

MARK MORTENSEN, ARTS DEPARTMENT CHAIR: A tour of Peck’s campus for prospective parents includes a visit to the woodshop. Nearly all guests express pleasure in seeing that an independent, elementary school offers woodworking classes. Many reminisce of their own experiences in grade-school woodshops.

Nearly all guests express pleasure in seeing that an independent, elementary school offers woodworking classes.

I enjoy sharing with visitors some highlights of Peck’s program. Simple tools and simple projects are introduced in 3rd grade, a Peck student’s first formal exposure to woodworking. In fourth grade, students craft a folk toy at the same time they are learning about folk songs in the music studio and folk art in the art studio. Fifth graders create a game board -perhaps Senet, Calculi, or Nine Men’s Morris – tied to their history studies. Sixth graders learn how to use power tools to craft a project, seventh graders learn to carve and shape wood, and eighth graders choose two semesters of arts electives from a menu including drama, 2D and 3D studio art, music composition, and woodworking.

I also speak to guests about the benefits of woodworking. Studies have shown that children who experience the cognitive challenges present in a woodshop—where they are developing critical thinking skills, growing measurement skills, building engineering skills, and enhancing spatial visualization skills—tend to do better in math and science classes. This is especially true for girls.

Not to be undervalued, I add, is the self-esteem and satisfaction derived from having created something with ones own hands. Two years ago, woodworker and teacher Doug Stowe shared on his blog a list titled: 21 Reasons Why School Woodworking Programs are Important in the 21st Century. He includes that woodworking instills the habits of attention, perseverance, and patience; provides relevancy of other subject matter (art, math, science, history, etc.) to student’s lives, thereby preparing them for a lifetime of learning; assists students in communicating and understanding ideas non-verbally, through pictures, sketches and technical drawings; provides a non-contrived opportunity for engagement of multiple intelligences; and helps students gain confidence as real world problem solvers.

Peck’s woodworking students are proud of their accomplishments: the
tangible projects that result from their diligent efforts and those achievements resulting from the intangible connections that enable success beyond the woodshop.

Leave a Reply