Two years ago, a student told Garrison Forest Upper School art teacher Sarah Sachs about an Adirondack chair her brother made in a woodworking class at an area boys’ school. “I started looking into it and all of the boys’ schools had woodshops,” said Ms. Sachs. Yet, in her research, none of the area girls’ schools taught woodworking. This drove Ms. Sachs to begin her journey toward creating a woodworking class at Garrison Forest, which wrapped up its inaugural semester in January. She began by visiting one school, which has a woodworking department in each division, to start gathering ideas and learning more about the tools the students would need to get started. She was excited to realize that the GFS sculpture studio already had most of the required tools and she was able to purchase the remaining tools needed in order to launch the course. Not having much experience in woodworking herself, Ms. Sachs was granted GFS professional development funding to delve into the craft at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, Colorado. She spent the week before the start of school last summer alongside other artists as a student on the ranch learning to make four new types of joinery, milling her own wood, designing and building furniture and much more before launching the class last fall. Ten Upper School students took part in the course and learned the basics of working with wood to design and construct three wood pieces to use in their homes. The girls laminated ash and mahogany to make cutting boards, carved and gauged many varieties of spoons and used joinery techniques to create table lamps. Open to grades 10-12, the course builds on the strong design foundation courses all GFS students take freshman year and attracted several students who previously did not necessarily view themselves as “artists.” In addition to developing an understanding of the differences and connections between fine art and design, learning how to take a piece of wood to turn it into an item that is both artistic and functional required the students to draw on many areas of their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) knowledge and to delve deeply into their creative problem-solving skills. While the course is a semester long, the confidence that comes from coming up with an idea, figuring out how to design that idea and working with often unfamiliar tools in bringing that idea to life is something that will last a lifetime. “It was very empowering for the girls to solve real-world design problems,” said Ms. Sachs. Perhaps she had the foresight to know that the students would one day be woodworking when she several years ago created a sign above the studio’s power tools that reads “Empowerment Tools.” Today she feels that the woodworking course did just that for the GFS students. For more information about the Garrison Forest School, visit the website at https://www.gfs.org/.
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