Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Kicking off a new Inquiry - woodworking

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I've been advocating for Finding Joy in both my professional and personal life.   

Anyone who gets emails from me  and reads the signature line also knows that I tend to find lots of joy in my work. 

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
  - James M. Barrie

While some say that I have trouble with work/life balance, I say I am lucky that 'often' (not always) I have trouble telling the difference between work and play. 

I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.

        - Richard Branson

This past year, I have once again found an intersection between work and play - and began a new inquiry project. 

Although I am convinced that hands tools and power tools belong in our school maker spaces, I do not have much experience with either.  I wanted to change that.   

Thus began a personal inquiry to help me grow creative confidence using wood working tools. 

This inquiry met all four of Trevor MacKenzie's "Pillars of Inquiry" 

- I was exploring a passion

- I was aiming for a goal

- I was delving in my curiosities

- I was taking on a new challenge 

Early in the  summer I picked up a used portable Ryobi toolset on Facebook Marketplace and started making sawdust while I did some  research  for a project that could teach me some basics. 

Throughout the summer  I shared much of my inquiry process on social media. 

And shared my cardboard prototype with others (including my dad)
and got some great feedback 

And started to experiment with new tools and processes

By the end of the summer I had two parts of a grill shelter finished 
(but not the shelter part, yet)
I am still trying to decide what I want the roof to look like. 

Although I found much joy during this  'free form' inquiry, I knew I had many gaps to fill if I wanted to safely include more hand and power tools into a school maker space.  But as often happens during an inquiry project,   I stumbled across a program that offered the tools, curriculum, and the training to bring the joy of woodworking into any classroom.

As I explored what MaplewoodShop  had to offer, I became very intrigued. 

I was curious as to how they would fulfill their promise to help educators with no experience gain confidence with woodworking. 

I was curious about their mobile workbench that could turn a classroom desk into a safe wood working station for two students. 

I was curious about their training and curriculum resources. 

After a few conversation with Maplewoodshop owner, Mike Schloff,  I decided there was only one way to find out and I ordered a workbench and tool set from MaplewoodShop. 

My Maplewoodshop shipment arrived during a 6 week visit back in Vermont where I was mixing work and play.   

After organizing the tools into a toolbox and exploring some of the safety videos, I invited my 83 year old dad to join me in exploring the tools.   We turned his kitchen counter into a workbench, watched  safety videos together and tried out several of the tools.  Not only did this help me gain confidence, but it sparked all kinds of walks down memory lane for my dad about projects he had worked on throughout his life. 

A few days later I had a play date planned with a very special 10 year boy with autism whose passion is drawing.  I had an idea!  We setup my new Maplewoood Workbench on the  coffee table and turned the living room into a maker space.  About an hour later he had transformed one of this drawings into a string art project.   Not only was he proud of the gift he had made for his dad for Valentines Day, but we had created a  grandma visit memory that left both of us with a little more creative confidence and maker empowerment. 

Meanwhile I had conversations with several school leaders and educators who were also intrigued by my pitch that woodworking might address several of the current needs in their school.  With each conversation I came closer and closer to finding educators with an innovators mindset willing to join me in this inquiry.

Stay tuned as I get ready to dive deeper into my essential  questions

How might a mobile woodworking program

--provide social emotional learning experiences for our students

--create a college and career pathway of  personalized learning 

--bridge equity gaps that students in small rural schools experience 

I'm finding lots of joy in this personal and professional inquiry and promise to share what I learn.


Education is not preparation for life Education is life itself. -John Dewey

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