St. James crafts woodworking lessons

Record Photo by Jessica Able Sue Ellen Wilson, left, an eighth-grader at St. James School, and Maggie Lucas, a seventh-grader, measured a board together during a woodworking class. The Highlands school offers a woodworking class for a dozen seventh- and eighth-grade students. Below, seventh-graders Evan Burks, left, and Cody Montgomery sanded boards for a project. (Record Photos by Jessica Able)

Sue Ellen Wilson, left, an eighth-grader at St. James School, and Maggie Lucas, a seventh-grader, measured a board together during a woodworking class. The Highlands school offers a woodworking class for a dozen seventh- and eighth-grade students. (Record Photos by Jessica Able)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

A dozen middle school students at St. James School have learned to construct cutting boards and bird houses as part of a new elective course in woodworking.

Jeff Purichia, principal of the Highlands school, said he wanted to offer a class that would give students some “real-world skills.”

“Most of our students will go on to college, but not all,” Purichia said in an interview at the school last month.

The course, which was introduced last fall, was designed to provide students with some hands-on skills they’ll be able to take with them when they leave St. James, he said.

Steve Morriss, a grandparent of a current St. James student, has volunteered his time to offer the elective class twice a week.

Purichia said the class is “very cross-curricular.” Students must measure, cut, drill and, in some instances, work together to construct the items.

Seventh-graders Evan Burks, left, and Cody Montgomery sanded boards for a project.

Seventh-graders Evan Burks, left, and Cody Montgomery sanded boards for a project.

“They have to account for fractions and know the difference between the various drill bits. They use math skills to figure it out,” he said.

The principal said he hopes the students ultimately learn to draw their own plans for an object and then build it.

“When they get out into the workforce, they’ll be able to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this,’ ” he said.

Morriss said he believes in what Purichia is trying to accomplish with the class.

“Some kids may not go to college. They may think of the building trade, which is sorely needed around here,” Morris said. “You can make a good income but you need to be skilled.”

So far, Morriss said, the students have been eager to learn and work well together.

The top priority, Morriss said, is safety.

“Before each class, we have a safety briefing,” he said, noting that students inspect their tools at the beginning of each class.

Cody Montgomery, a St. James seventh-grader, said he enjoys the hands-on work in the woodworking class.

“Just the fact that we can make stuff and bring it home” is appealing to him, he said. “If I need something repaired in my house later, I could do it instead of getting someone else to do it.”

By springtime, Purichia said he plans for the students to begin construction on a picnic table to sell in the school’s spring auction.

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