Doug Stowe started the first woodshop class 20 years ago with a grant from the Windgate Foundation as an upper school program when the new high school launched. Within the first three years, it expanded to middle and elementary school students, and even kindergartners and preschoolers have used wood scraps in art activities.
To students, subjects like geometry, algebra, and science often seem unrelated to their actual lives, and it can be difficult to understand how these things will be useful in life. The question students wrestle with, “what’s in it for me?,” can be answered in the woodshop. Time in the woodshop demonstrates the connections between “isolated” subjects, bringing their study into practical application and use.
This type of hands-on learning allows students to develop confidence in their own powers of observing, learning, practicing, and creating. For example, a bat colony that has roosted near a building on campus has piqued the lower school students’ curiosity. To observe the bats at night, they created a structure to house a camera; to monitor how much guano the bats produce, they made a box. A project for the upper school students involved studying the history of Victorian architecture in their town, the tools that were used in construction, and how those tools have evolved.
Students and school leaders will celebrate Stowe, and his two decades of woodshop on campus, when his book Wisdom of Our Hands—Crafting, A Life is published in February 2022.
Kindergarten students show off their work.
A second grade student builds a buddy bench.
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