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.