Each August I have the opportunity to judge woodworking projects from school-age kids that have been submitted to our Minnesota State Fair. (The second largest state fair in the country — drat those hyper-competitive Texans!) I must confess that there is a small degree of tedium to the task — hmm, 30 nearly identical clocks … which is best? But with that said, I always feel a huge lift when I first see the pile of projects made by woodworkers who range from 3rd grade all the way through senior high. As I am sure you can imagine, the skill levels range widely and the projects vary with the interests of the builder, but the expression of their enthusiasm is nearly universal. This year I saw everything from a handmade and designed harp to a 6-foot tall birdhouse. Surely, imagination has no better canvas than woodworking for a young person’s penchant for self-expression.
The only sad note in this year’s offerings was that the number of projects was notably fewer than last year. I think it is the effects of the hard economic times exaggerated by the fact that there are fewer shop classes each year. So, for that reason and others, I am hoping that I might be able to encourage you all to join me in supporting woodworking in our public schools. Check with your local school district and see what opportunities are available and do what you can. Time, money and mentorship can be gifts that will have a long-term effect on a young person. But let me give you the benefit of my experience — it will have a long-term and beneficial effect on you as well.
Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal