Saturday, December 14, 2019

Woodshop 2.0 #MakerEd #PBL

One of the things that has been an interesting part of my evolution as an Makerspace Director is the popularity of the trade skills among students. It should not be surprising though. So many of us grew up with access to a woodshop class, metals class, auto tech class, or something similar. As school shifted toward testing and state requirements and the idea that college graduation was the only path to success, those classes vanished. Like most things, we are seeing a shift back to what worked before.

When I give tours of the Makerspace to parents, they are not quite sure what to make of it. When I tell them it is like Woodshop 2.0, it clicks for them. They always share their stories from taking those classes and lament the fact that students don't have the same change to take them anymore. That's where I come in and tell them all of the amazing things that happen in our space.

Our Makerspace is all about creating opportunities for students to learn by doing. By going back to the basics of education, our students have been learning skills that will serve them well beyond an educational settings. Students are applying their geometry and other math skills while building things out of wood, using the laser cutter, CNC machine, or 3D printer. By giving students the chance to build to demonstrate understanding of classroom concepts, they are also learning back tool skills. The number of high school seniors that do not know ow to use a drill is too dang high!

I'm lucky to have an apprentice in the Makerspace this year. She has been working hard on her capstone project to create a woodworking class and I have been teaching her different techniques and how to use different tools. Teaching her the design process and the research process has been awesome. One thing she recognized very early in her work is that there are very few women that do woodworking. She was also very frustrated by the marketing of pink tools for ladies as if they are suited for women. All that nonsense fueled her desire to be a role model for the younger students at school. She showcases her work to any of the middle school students that watch her work in the Makerspace and answers all of their questions. It is an awesome thing to hear young girls talk about their want to learn woodworking.

As educators, we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Woodshop exists and can be brought back to your school in some small version through your Makerspace. People talk about wanting engage students and focus on skills, but they are ignoring these types of trade skills that have value. By supporting them in school, it shows kids that these skills are valued in our community.

If you want more info on our Makerspace, reach out to me at or come and see me presenting at FETC, TCEA, MACUL, and Spring CUE in the coming months.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Project Based Learning on @Reddit #EdChat

I hope everyone is having an awesome day!

I have been spending lots of time on Reddit recently getting tips on Woodworking and Turning as well as sharing my work on there as well. I got to thinking that it there should be a place for teachers to share and I was shocked to find that a Project Based Learning thread did not exist. So, I created it. You can find it here

If you are interested in joining a small, but slowly growing community of teachers looking to share projects, please join! Reddit is a great place to share and connect as a community. Twitter feeds are becoming clogged with unhelpful junk. I hope this is a nice place for teachers to connect, share, and support one another. 

Hug and High Fives, 


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Making for Mental Health #MakerEd

tl;dr - Making and the general act of creation/creativity helps support students' mental health.

It has been a number of weeks since my last blog post and it is simply because I have been too busy with students and personal projects to sit and write a full post. I'm posting plenty on Instagram and you should check out the student work there.

During this posting absence, so many different student projects were taking place. Students were building mousetrap cars in high school engineering, my Innovation and Design students were constructing bridges, and my Woodworking apprentice was feverishly redesigning the FabLab as part of her capstone project. In the middle of the craziness, I found myself obsessing over learning to use the lathe to turn pens and rings. As I look back now, it is surprising that all of the craziness of student projects, end of marking period, and holiday fun did not force my mental health issues of anxiety and depression to show their faces.

Today was another crazy day, but a day filled with so much making and fun that it brought a tear to my at the end of the day when I sat down to reflect. I take pictures all of the time when the Innovation is hopping with students. Here is a little rundown of what today was like.

Eve, my woodworking apprentice, comes to see me 45 minutes into the start of school saying we needed to act fast and get a cart because there are some logs from a tree that was cut down next to the school. She tried to get one of them last night, but they were too heavy. I grabbed my coat and, with the help of my good buddy Michael M, we picked up some quality pieces of wood. The student really wants to make a coffee table out of the large full stump piece and smaller projects (shelves, cutting boards, etc.) with the other pieces.

I also had seniors in their Engineering class working on their mousetrap cars and spent a great deal of time helping students learn to use various tools, problem solve design issues, and just getting to know them all. It was so fun to see a group of seniors just having a blast, working together, and learning things along the way. It was such a pure form of education. It made me smile. I showed a student how to lathe, use a mitre saw, cut circles on the laser cutter, use a drill (then how to reverse the drill), and so much more. It was all fun and laughs. 


During the craziness of the day, I found some time to explore my own making. I want to learn to turn pens and rings so I can add it to my Innovation and Design class. I've made one pen and one letter opener (same principle as pen turning). I am almost done with my second pen and I already know it will be much better than the first. 

I've also been working on an epoxy river table. Eve wants to create an awesome table that will include an epoxy coating and I want to make sure that I can help guide her through the process, so I needed to make my own table. Here is my table so far. I drew it, scanned it into CAD software, had the CNC carve it, colored and poured epoxy, and sanded it all down. I still need to stain and place a final coat of epoxy, but I like where I am so far. Eve's table is awesome and she loves showing it off to other students and explaining her process. 


It was a busy day, but I couldn't be happier. The more I reflect on the making that takes place in our space, all of the kids are just having a blast because making makes people happy. Making is great for mental health. Just like we need to give students time to run around and play, we need to keep giving them time to be creative and make things. As mental health issues for our children become more and more recognized as an important issue that needs to be dealt with, hopefully people will look at the act of making as a way to bring joy into the lives of our students.