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Lessons in the Woodshop Lead to Lifelong Skills for Green Chimneys Students

March 18, 2018

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March 20, 2016

Patience + Perseverance = Pride

In an environment rich with opportunities to learn from animals, plants, and endless outdoor experiences, you might miss the other hands-on educational and therapeutic activities that are equally beneficial. Welcome to Tony Kimble’s Woodshop.

As a certified industrial arts/special education teacher and 25-year veteran of the Green Chimneys School staff, Tony conducts a program designed to support academics such as math, measurement and reading while helping students develop important skills beyond their text books. Physical capabilities such as hand-eye coordination, personal skills including patience and self-expression, and the technical competence needed for safe tool usage and effective problem-solving, are as much the end goal as the items his students learn to build.

Green Chimneys woodshop students get a genuine experience in woodworking with thorough instruction on tools, measuring, and drafting of plans to develop a working knowledge of the properties of wood and the steps necessary to turn it into useful or decorative objects. Tony also connects his students to purposeful work, identifying needed projects on the Green Chimneys campus and guiding students to imagine, design, troubleshoot and, ultimately, construct items for classrooms, offices, animals at the farm, and even our tiniest students at Nature’s Nursery

“There’s a high degree of satisfaction in creating and completing a project – even a simple item – from an unfinished piece of wood,” says Tony. “Kids who may be struggling in the classroom can start to feel defeated; knowing you can make something with your own hands, using special tools, really builds your confidence.”

The type of mental health and related behavioral issues faced by Green Chimneys students may make Woodshop seem like a risky setting. Impulse control, defiance, anxiety, and sensory issues such as fear of noise are some common difficulties that exist among students but Tony possesses a special ability to help them slow down, focus their attention, and get involved in the work.

“In the Carpentry program [a vocational track for high school students], the challenge is not so much the individual behaviors, the real challenge is to have 6 kids work on a project – it becomes an organization issue and a potential safety hazard,” he explains. “I try to redirect students who seem most impatient to a very specific task, or one to help prepare for the next project. Helping them look ahead and plan, or do something separate from the others, often makes them feel more useful and important to the process, and they take that job seriously.”

Tony also makes it clear to students that their effort on one project helps him determine what level of involvement they might have on the next one. For students who are inclined to give up easily or cut corners on their work product, this usually instills a desire to do things right, further contributing to their technical skills, as well as their toolbox of personal skills.

Woodshop students gain diverse experience and applicable skills through a wide range of projects; some their own individual creations and some devised by the class. But the feeling they get from a job well done and having produced a tangible, usable item brings a deep sense of accomplishment…the most meaningful outcome of all.

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