Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kids these days

I have just been invited to do a little woodworking demonstration for a group of kids at the local YMCA here in Nashville. I’m psyched, but I’m also nervous. The kids will range in age from 6 to 12. There will be 10 or so kids present. I’ll have about 30 to 45 minutes with them. Yikes! What can I show them? How can I avoid boring them to tears?

I’m thinking through several ideas with the current favorite being showing the kids how I cut dovetails. Then I would give them a couple of small pieces of wood with dovetails already cut in them to take home. Another idea I have is to show them some simple planing. I would love to be able to let each kid have a try at planing, but I’m not sure if the Y would be very happy about that.

Anyway, I’m still thinking through my options and I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had a chance to demonstrate woodworking to kids. I’m taking this very seriously (too seriously?), because I want what might be these kids’ first exposure to woodworking to be at least positive and at most something that might spark an interest in doing it themselves someday. I’ll write again about what I decide to do and how it goes over.


vanessa said...

I think the dovetail idea is good because: you can explain the strength of the joint, you can explain how wood expands and contracts with the seasons and you can tell them that this joint has been used for thousands of years!

Good luck. :)

saltybeagle said...

Hmm.. it's hard to think of something that would be safe enough for kids to do at the Y. You definitely wouldn't want the kids to run home and try playing with dad/mom's power tools or sharp tools. Some ideas that came to mind---
the strength different joints offer... how to make wood strong. Have a couple kids tug on a joint to pull it apart to demonstrate why it's important to consider different joinery techniques.

Glue strength... the different types, colors of wood... what the differences are between plywood & veneer, have them guess which is a veneer and which is a solid board... stuff about trees & wood that it's a renewable resource but one that needs to be properly harvested.

Sounds like it will be fun... definitely let us know how it goes.

Ted Wong said...

I've done something like this before. Pretty easy to do. Cutting joints as you suggest may be good. How many times does the group meet? If it is a limited time frame and you only meet once for something like two hours it may be nice to do a project. I've found kids like being able to walk away with something they made and can use or give to their parents. In the past I've used Zona saws, Shopmade miter boxes, handplanes, hand drills, etc. to make small projects.
Even the simplest drafting pencil sharpener (sandpaper glued to a handle) can involve several skills. There are several books out on the topic of woodworking with children.
Check out one of several books on woodworking with kids.

Sophie said...

Also, what I still remember luminously from my first introduction to the qualities of wood is a demonstration of how wood grain works. The strongest kid in the class was given a piece of wood with the grain running lengthways and was asked to try and break it. The smallest girl in the class was given a piece with the grain running crossways and asked to try and break it - I've never forgotten that lesson :) Good luck!

Paul-Marcel said...

I agree with Ted Wong... have them do a project to take home. Knowledge is great, but knowledge that they can see on their desk everyday is greater. I know Charles Neil does a special kids class every Christmas where the project only requires assembly after some minor skills work like cutting some sides, drilling dowel holes, etc. Depending on what you leave to be done before assembly, the kids can learn those skills. Everything ends with finishing the project as best you can with the time frame.