“Children are hard-wired to create. Any parent who has discovered a fort made of couch cushions, waded through a pile of Legos, or swept bits of paper, glitter, and dried glue knows this well. When kids are offered time in a full-blown woodshop, most leap at the opportunity.
Our children need to learn to work with their hands. They need the freedom to work in the shop, to saw boards (with real saws), and nail together whatever they can dream up. When kids learn to work wood they develop manual dexterity, yes. But more than that, woodworking is an opportunity to cultivate the patience, discipline, and independence that distinguishes a well-balanced individual.
These experiences often have lasting effects. Most every veteran woodworker can tell childhood stories about their time in their father’s or their uncle’s workshop, let loose to bang nails into boards. They often credit this experience with setting them on a life-long trajectory of making things with their own hands.
In the 21st century, this kind of opportunity is not a given. It’s common knowledge that in the United States, “shop class” has been almost now entirely removed from public education. In its place, a lopsided emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) divests children of a well-rounded educational experience. Though they can navigate iPads with ease and code their way into the future, studies suggest that all of that screen time and cerebral work threatens loss of dexterity, even that which is needed to hold a pencil.
So, what are we to do if our children are no longer taught to work with their hands? How can we as mentors and parents fill this gap in their educational experience?”
– Joshua A. Klein and Michael Updegraff, excerpt from “Tools for Learning: Woodworking with Young Children” in Issue Five.
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