After some research and careful planning, I decided on some simple beginner projects. I purchased a few coping saws, some 8-ounce hammers, as well as some old hand drills, and plunged headlong into the unknown. Much to my surprise, after that initial woodworking session I found that all of my students, both the boys and the girls, loved it! Later, as a class, we came up with a list of projects we wanted to build over the course of the school year, and I simply replaced the subject of art with woodworking in my syllabus.
I have refined my woodworking program over the past nine years; the sequence of projects gradually introduces the students to more and more challenging projects, each one building on the skills learned during previous projects. I've also put a lot of thought and planning into deciding how much or how little preparation of the wood pieces is needed in order to maximize the learning opportunities. The goal isn’t to have them work on projects where everything is already pre-cut and ready for assembly, in which case all of the thinking has been done for them. My objectives are to force my students to think about the project to gain an overall idea of the steps involved, to develop hand-tool skills, to learn resiliency in a safe environment and to further develop their problem-solving skills, all while having fun doing real, hands-on work. From my perspective, and that of my students’ parents, the program does this in spades, and so much more.
Interestingly, I find that every week on ‘woodworking day’, I have a full complement of students in attendance, as they are eager to work on their projects. Other teachers at my school are now doing woodworking with their students and, more recently, teachers from other schools are looking to start their own woodworking programs at the elementary level. The future is in good hands.
If you are looking for a fun project to make with your youngster, consider making a catapult. While this is not the first project I start with in the classroom, building this catapult will teach your child how to measure, saw, hammer and drill using a hand drill or drill press. Making this project is a great way to spend an afternoon with your budding woodworker.