As a father of a young child first and then as a woodworker, I see this fast-paced world continuously evolving with technology more and more leading our lives; I wonder if modern society is leaving behind essential concepts like practical skills proven to be beneficial to any human being. Even if I keep being positive and know the importance of cultivating arts and crafts from a young age, I realize it becomes increasingly difficult for schools and institutions to squeeze in subjects like woodworking.
Now, as a reader, you might wonder how woodworking can fit into the picture of kids' education and why it should be chosen over other subjects; there are several valid reasons for this, and I will guide you through each of them in this article. If you are a parent, a school manager or a teacher, this post is especially for you. Keep on reading, and you will find interesting points to consider.
After some research, I came up with these points:
ENHANCING CREATIVITY AND PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
DEVELOPING TECHNICAL SKILLS AND STEM KNOWLEDGE
CULTIVATING PATIENCE AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL
ENCOURAGING SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
PROMOTING SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND RESOURCEFULNESS
BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
1. ENHANCING CREATIVITY AND PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
I'm sure you've heard of the expression, "see the world with the eyes of a child". We use it positively to remember how privileged kids are to have this innocence and level of imagination that we, adults, put aside most of the time.
So, kids have this magic power to see a few pieces of wood in a way we would never imagine. Woodworking becomes for kids a wonderful canvas where they can unleash their imagination.
Even if it is recognized that today's technology brings many positive benefits to humanity, we should be aware that doing more and more things for us is affecting our problem-solving abilities; so, you understand that the new generations risk being left without a fundamental skill that has been part of our evolution.
So here comes into play the power of woodworking: it ignites passion in kids and forces them to think critically while constructing their projects.
Woodworking opens up several solutions to achieve the same result, so kids will inevitably encounter challenges. Maybe their project is not sturdy enough or needs to be joined without nails; instead of giving up, kids learn to persevere and solve these issues using critical thinking. It's a constant trial and error that develops adaptability.
And it really doesn't matter if they are making a stool, a box or a birdhouse. They create something that requires translating thought into action.
2. DEVELOPING TECHNICAL SKILLS AND STEM KNOWLEDGE
I'm sure you are starting better to understand the value and importance of woodworking for kids, but if what I introduced above is not enough, here is something more that makes woodworking more actual than ever!
Nowadays, 75% of the jobs in the fastest-growing industries require workers with STEM skills (source: https://www.education.wa.edu.au/what-is-stem).
STEM represents a learning and development methodology that combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.
Now, in woodworking, all these disciplines find their place and combine to give students a holistic approach to their studies.
And here's how.
Woodworking requires measuring and working with various geometrical shapes, integral to math and engineering; each construction component must match the other part. From square to angle measurements, small errors compound, and the young woodworkers will soon learn the importance of accuracy in their tasks.
As the project progresses, they will use various tools and techniques to hone their manual skill and understanding of mechanics. It's easy to imagine how these skills will be the foundation for their future careers in fields like construction, design or engineering.
Wood is a live material; each species is different from another, and kids will have the opportunity to understand properties like density, strength and flexibility, introducing them to the science behind the material they are working with.
STEM methodology can use woodworking as a medium that covers various subjects and even sparks a lifelong interest.
3. CULTIVATING PATIENCE AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Continuing our journey to discover the benefits of woodworking for children, I'd like to focus on another essential skill that kids can learn. I want to introduce how woodworking can teach patience and attention to detail. I believe it's another fundamental aspect, as these will directly impact our kids' personal and professional lives.
Let's face it: we live in such a fast-paced digital era that we expect everything to happen immediately; we constantly look for instant gratification.
Interestingly, a study conducted by Microsoft in 2015 revealed that our attention span dropped from 12 seconds in early 2000 to just 8 seconds. Less than a goldfish!
A few seconds more in loading a web page look like minutes; we have a perception of time that is different from what it used to be just a few years ago. But we, as adults, had a progressive shift towards this new lifestyle; kids don't know any different from what they experience now. And this poses a fundamental problem as their mindset leads to impatience when things don't happen as fast as anticipated.
In this case, woodworking encourages kids to slow down, take their time and enjoy the journey.
Woodworking is nothing more than this, a journey where every single step matters as much as the completion of the construction.
If fast is a primary parameter considered in the digital world, in woodworking, there is a great demand for thoughtfulness and care at every project phase.
Yes! Patience is a real virtue in woodworking that spans from choosing the right piece of wood to cutting a joint and applying a finishing. As kids go through the various steps, they will learn to appreciate the virtue of waiting. Good things take time to happen!
If we bring these lessons into other aspects of life, it becomes evident that kids can also benefit in academics and social interactions. By acquiring the skill to tackle challenges and tasks patiently, kids will build resilience and gain a profound understanding of the importance of hard work and commitment.
Now, if we expand the idea and look at how woodworking can enhance attention to detail, we obtain a complete educational frame that profoundly impacts kids' mental development.
Think of a poorly cut joint or an incorrectly measured angle; all this has a compounding effect on the project and leads to an inaccurate construction, raising concerns about the soundness of the entire piece!
And what better way for kids to learn the importance of being dedicated to accuracy? Stressing the importance of detail will help kids tackle each task with the appropriate level of attention, aiming for excellence in everything they do.
And as I said before, by translating these lessons into other areas of their lives, they will have more chances to excel in subjects demanding precision, such as mathematics or writing.
4. ENCOURAGING SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
There's been a significant shift towards sustainability in the past years, and today, several initiatives have taken place to help our planet become a better place to live.
As wood plays a significant role in this equation, we must focus on woodworking to teach our kids how to contribute to a sustainable future.
First and foremost, woodworking introduces kids to sustainable wood sourcing and responsible forestry practices. When selecting materials for their projects, they'll learn the difference between woods harvested from sustainably managed forests and those from endangered or protected ecosystems. This awareness will help them make informed choices when purchasing wood for their projects and as consumers later in life.
Woodworking can also teach children the importance of reducing waste and reclaiming materials. They learn to plan and use wood mindfully with precise cuts to reduce waste and find creative ways to utilize offcuts and scraps. In the future, they will apply these lessons to other aspects of their lives, promoting a sustainable lifestyle and attention to environmental conservation.
Nature is our most precious asset, and it's our responsibility, as parents and educators, to raise this awareness in kids, helping them to connect with nature and appreciate life from a perspective that detaches from a digital world that is profoundly permeating our lives.
5. PROMOTING SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND RESOURCEFULNESS
As I write this chapter, I see this topic sitting at the core of our discussion. It is clear at this point that woodworking has several advantages for kids and has a strong power to influence attitudes and behaviours that will stay with them in adulthood. Woodworking offers a holistic vision, incorporating science, mathematics, and engineering. When these subjects are put together, they boost kids' self-sufficiency, resourcefulness and resilience.
Think of how life changed compared to just a few years ago. We come from a time when we had a guaranteed job that we would keep for our entire working life, and now change has become the standard. We just had Covid coming across our lives, and it proved how having the vital skills of being self-sufficient, resourceful and resilient are more critical than ever.
Teach these skills to kids, and you are investing in their future, giving them a chance to become better persons. Soft skills are invaluable nowadays; they can make you move mountains and let the magic happen.
Woodworking equips kids with sufficient knowledge and skill to be independent as they learn how to create and repair stuff. Learning how to use various tools and techniques will increase their self-confidence. Consequently, they will push their capabilities beyond and never be afraid to depend on someone else. They will learn to be resilient, ready to tackle new adventures, adapting when faced with setbacks and challenges.
As woodworking is one of the best teachers for problem-solving, kids are constantly put in front of challenges in their projects. Nothing is ever like planned, and many times, adjustments are necessary. Sometimes, a quick fix or a jig created on the spot helps solve issues without returning to the design phase. Exposing kids in front of these challenges is like offering them an anticipation of life: a continuous adaption to new situations. Being capable of innovative thinking will help kids find creative solutions in other domains of life, starting from school, where they will most probably approach academic challenges with more ingenuity.
6. BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
Woodworking is creating something tangible that comes from our hands. Everything starts in our minds as an idea designed on paper and then built in the workshop. Applying this process to kids means letting them witness the direct outcome of their efforts.
This is another invaluable advantage that woodworking brings to our young learners. In fact, it helps boost their confidence, fosters a sense of accomplishment and increases self-esteem and motivation. As our kids start working on a project, from an idea to completion, they will observe a physical object coming to life, instilling a sense of ownership and pride in their work.
And if this is not enough, it's worth remembering that woodworking requires persistence and dedication, and obstacles are constantly around the corner. Learning how to correct mistakes or apply a new technique can teach a lesson of resilience and helps kids build confidence in their capabilities.
Perfecting their abilities and taking on more complex projects will boost their self-esteem and motivate them to take on new challenges.
This self-assurance and sense of accomplishment may have a cascading influence on other areas of the child's life. Students who are confident in themselves are more likely to participate in class, take risks, and persevere through challenging assignments.
These characteristics may help them succeed academically and advance personally. Furthermore, those who exude confidence are frequently better equipped to handle the challenges of adult life, from developing lasting relationships to pursuing fulfilling occupations.
Woodworking presents a unique and invaluable opportunity to enrich our children's lives in numerous ways. By incorporating this craft into their education, we're equipping them with essential life skills that extend far beyond the workshop. From fostering creativity and problem-solving abilities to developing technical skills and STEM knowledge, woodworking offers a well-rounded educational experience that can benefit children in many aspects and helps to shape young minds into confident, capable, and responsible individuals ready to face the challenges of our modern society.