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Has it ever been more difficult to be a teenager?
I was thinking back today to 1988 and Hurricane Gilbert. I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade in Texas. I remember that my last period class each day was wood-shop which I had started as a 6th grader and continued throughout each year of middle school. As the storm approached the Gulf Coast in early September, the shop teacher instructed us on preparing the shop for possible disaster (and for an unknowable number of days out of school). We lined our stools up around the edges of the room instead of putting them on top of the tables as we normally did. We unplugged all the power tools and neatly wrapped the cords. We locked our “in progress” projects into the cabinets. While, in our area, the storm ended up not being the devastating disaster that had been imagined, I still remember the seriousness of the preparation this one group of middle school kids took to “batten down the hatches.”
Kids today have been dealing with a different kind of storm and it hasn’t lasted just one weekend. COVID 19 and the resulting damage to the institutions of life will be felt as ongoing heartaches for years to come. I read an article today on how school violence, which is on the rise, is no longer just between students. There are several reports of students actually assaulting teachers; one Florida 10-year-old hit his teacher over the head with a snow globe! Two years away in online-school that lacked proper structure, socialization and instruction are coming back to bite us all. Nationwide, crime is up, recklessness on the roads is way up, and, overarching all of these, anger and anxiety seem more prevalent today than I’ve ever seen before. I’ve been working with children for nearly 25 years now and something is definitely heading in the wrong direction. More than ever, I teach kids who play between 4-8 hours of video games every day (not every week like I did at their age). And, even for the kids who aren’t so lost to video games, screen time or social media videos, I find an incredible amount of insecurity in project or task outcomes today. It’s incredibly rare now that I have a student with the ability to say “This is what I worked on, and this is how I approached the task.” More than anything I hear “I’m not sure what I was supposed to do” or “I didn’t have any time all week to work on this.” Just as rare is a student who knows what they want to learn; the default to my questions of “What do you want to make?” or “What song do you want to learn?” is most often “I don’t really care.” As a young drum student I constantly made teachers work hard by saying “Ok, teach me the drum part to…..”
For the past 10 years, I’ve been bringing the same life skills that I learned in my middle school wood-working classes to kids of the 21st century. Dreaming, planning, sketching, measuring, marking, cutting, assembling and finishing. Kids respond! When they are in an environment where they can think, plan, and try, great things happen. If at first they don’t have any idea what they want to make, I can say “Check out that wood pile over there and pick out a few pieces that interest you. Think about what they could become.” In 20 minutes I normally get a response like “Could I build a table?” or “How hard is it to make a boomerang?” Then we’re off!
In a 3- or 5-day camp, kids from 11 years old and up put their phones away, and actually make something real. Even better, they decide what it’s going to be, what it should look like, and how it should work. Even better still, they LOVE every minute of it!
Guess what…it doesn’t always come out perfectly the first time. In fact, they’ll learn that when you make something on your own it never comes out perfectly, and that’s one of the absolute best parts of wood working. It’s David Pye’s “Workmanship of Risk” played out in a real wood shop, under the careful watch of a seasoned and experienced teacher. When kids finish putting together their Adirondack chairs they often look at me and ask “Is it going to fall apart?” My answer is “You won’t know ’til you try it out.”
If you think that your teen would benefit and enjoy a week outdoors, ample time to dream and design, learning basic skills of carpentry, and meeting new friends please sign up for the mailing list at the top of this post. I’ll let you know as soon as next summer’s courses are set. References, both kid and parent, are available upon request and I’d love to talk with you via email or phone to answer any questions you have!
“I really loved the camp you can really go at your own pace with your project, the workspace is wonderful Mr. Scott is really supportive and is there for you to make sure that you understand and can confidently work the machinery. I absolutely loved the camp.” – NK, age 15
Summer Wrap Up and Planning for 2022!
With the summer rapidly fading away and kids returning to school, I wanted to look back at all the fun wood working that was done at the shop in the past three months. For the first time, I ran 6 camps with kids ranging in age from 9 to 18. Every camp that I offered was filled and every camper finished the week with a new set of skills and some really cool projects. In total, the kids built 9 Adirondack chairs, 6 bedroom shelves, 3 ping pong ball shooter, 2 bird houses, 1 bird feeder and several other independent projects.
Here are a few of the final projects that came out of this summer’s camps.
Each year, the camp gets better and better. This year, in addition to the prescribed or offered projects, the kids all got “open shop” time where they could design and pick their own projects out. That was something new for me and it kept me on my toes. What I have learned most about being an instructor at a wood working camp is that (next to safety which is always my top priority) my next most important job is helping every camper find their path to make each project successful. As the kids will tell you, I don’t do any part of the projects for them. When something doesn’t look exactly as they hoped, I encourage them to alter the plan a bit, or to redo. Either way, something is learned.
I have also discovered that each year there’s more interest in the camps I’m presenting than the year before. Personally, I think that’s because there’s not a lot offered to kids that isn’t technology based (i.e. computer screens) or competitive (i.e. sports.) Wood working is a solo journey. It’s absolutely not competitive. It’s both relaxing and frustrating. It’s picking out a project, drawing a plan, and bringing that plan to life. It develops a healthy sense of accomplishment and pride, the pride of creating something yourself! There’s little in my world that’s as satisfying as that process! And, I think they kids agree. I have campers who have come back 2, 3, 4 and even 5 years in a row.
This year, my set of camps filled up in 3 days. There was some shifting around of dates with some kids and I was able to add a couple spots to another camp, but all in all they were filled before I even got the word out. If you think this type of camp is something your child would enjoy next summer (2022) please click the link below to sign up for the mailing list. I’ll let you know around February what the summer dates will be and what projects will be made. Also, you’re welcome to come visit the shop anytime. Just get in touch and we can set up an afternoon:)
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Advanced Woodworking I (June 19-23, 2021)
Yesterday was the final day of my 4th camp for the summer. This one was an Advanced camp where three teens made Adirondack chairs and foot rests. The week was remarkable for many reasons, but particularly for the wonderfully cool weather and very low humidity (compared to a typical Baltimore July.) You just couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect than clear blue skies and a set of plans.
For the first step, campers turn a set of plans into full size MDF patterns. There’s a lot to learn at this step and we make use of 1″ graph paper, angle finders, rulers, and compasses to perfectly create each piece we’ll need for the chairs.
Step two is to trace our patterns onto the wood and start cutting out and labeling the pieces.
After each builder has their pieces cut, it’s time to shape, round and sand. Now is typically when the project begins to feel more real and also more personal. It’s possible to visual a final project…even if just a little.
With every looking Bristol fashion, we can now start a full day of assembly! Even though we all follow the same plan, you can see each kids creativity come through. From slat placement, to how they choose to do the top curve, the chairs will each show off a unique flair.
The project’s final step in the finishing. These chairs are meant to be enjoyed for years to come in an outdoor setting. So, we gotta put a coat on them! Here we protect them from the elements (and just make them look really sweet.)
CELEBRATION! Before parents and family come to join us at the firepit for desserts, music and conversation….we put on a little BBQ to reward ourselves for a week of hard work.
What the kids had to say:
“I really loved the camp you can really go at your own pace with your project, the workspace is wonderful Mr. Scott is really supportive and is there for you to make sure that you understand and can confidently work the machinery. I absolutely loved the camp.” -NK
The first two camps for summer 2021 are done and a fun time was had by all! The weather cooperated perfectly for the first High School Advanced class. Two campers made beautiful Adirondack chairs that they’re incredibly proud of. From arriving on day one and being shown a stack of boards….to leaving 4 days later with completed chairs, I don’t think they imagined how much they’d accomplish. The second camp wrapped up this past Friday and the weather dealt us a few surprises. The first day of camp was 97 degrees with a heat index of 105! Needless to say, our pace was slower and we took frequent breaks for the air conditioning. Day two switched things up and drenched the wood shop with rain and heavy thunderstorms. Finally though, Friday arrived with gorgeous low 80’s and sunshine. Perfect for those finishing top coats on the projects and a great cook out! Enjoy the photos below to get a glimpse into all the fun and action.
There’s something so special to watch these kids step out of their virtual worlds and grab a tape measure and a set of plans. At first, there’s questions on all sides. “What am I supposed to be doing?” “How do I start?” But by the end of camp, I hear statements like “I’m going to go attach the vertical slats now” and “Next I want to try and build a small table to go with this.” The progression is so priceless to me.
Woodworking Camps 2021!!
Summer 2021 is on the way and so are Wood Working camps at the school. For the past 8 years I’ve instructed teens in the practices and techniques of wood working and, without fail, the comments I hear most at the end of the week go something like this, “By far, this was the best thing I did all summer.”
And this summer will be no different! Camp sizes will be limited to 4 students per session due to covid restrictions. There will also be additional precautions for masking and cleanup, but we’ll make it work! If you don’t see a week that works for your family’s summer schedule and your child would like to participate, just contact me and we can find other dates. As long as I can get two or three interested, I’ll open up the shop.
Below you will see the various camps and dates that I’m planning for 2021. To the side I’ve listed the projects that we’ll focus on. Something new this year will be what I call “Open Shop.” If you’ve attended a camp in the past and have already made a main project, you can choose and design your own project and I’ll help! Need a book shelf? Or a cigar box guitar? Cutting board for a gift? Or something else? Let’s make it happen.
Camps cost $75 a day plus materials (usually ends up around $100 Middle School and $110 for High School), and runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After working and clean up, we’ll have a short time to snack, plan for the next day and play some pinball before pick up.
|Camp||Ages||Start Date||End Date||Project 1||Project 2||Project 3|
|11+||June 23||June 25||Boomerangs||Bedroom Shelf||Open Shop|
|11+||June 30||July 2||Desk Organizer||Wooden Speaker||Open Shop|
|Advanced Woodworking 1||14-18||July 12||July 16||Adirondack Chair||—–||Open Shop|
|14-18||July 19||July 23||Adirondack Chair||—–||Open Shop|
|High School Musician||14-18||July 26||July 30||Cajon Drumset||—–||Open Shop|
|Advanced Woodworking 3||14-18||August 9||August 13||Adirondack Chair||—–||Open Shop|
So what is camp like? Well, it’s definitely a different experience than most kids have during the summer. Wood working camp is a chance to slow down, disconnect from the computer and television, and have find the mental space to dream and build! The camp day starts at 9:30 with a discussion of the goals for that day. Typically we’ll also go over some safety aspect of the shop and all learn to use one new technique or tool. Then, projects are worked on from about 10:15 to noon. Lunch is 45 minutes on their own where the kids can chat, eat, and use their phones. We’re back to the wood shop from 12:45 to 3:00 for a solid afternoon of work. At 3 the kids do a shop cleanup and then get washed up and change before snack and firepit. At the Firepit we’ll discuss the next day’s plans and then there’s time inside for playing some pinball before getting picked up around 5.
I design the camp to be a step away from the connected life that we’ve all developed. Camp offers time to think, time to dream, and to build. This isn’t a camp where every minute is scheduled out with lots of activities, so a bit of self sufficiency is best, but I’m always right there to help out and get everyone to the next step in their projects. Interested in attending? Feel free to email me at ScottTiemannArts@Gmail.com with any questions!
Here are a few reactions from the kids who attended recent camps:
“Not only is Scott an amazing drum teacher, he is an exceptional woodworking instructor. Scott’s ability to teach all ages with various levels of experience is shown through the final project of the camp. When camp ends you will have a smile on your face, new friends, and something that you created with your own hands. ”
– KV, age 17
“It was fun and involved. When you finish, you get something you’re proud of that is high quality. It is very calm and is a good learning experience.”
– HY, age 15
“This camp was really cool. I was nervous at first, but Scott helped me a lot and taught me a lot about safety. I love showing everyone what I made. I definitely want to do this camp again next year!”
– AB, age 13
“Although it was the first experience with woodworking I had in my life, Scott’s camp was as fun and informative as anything he arranges. Before we began working with the tools, I was reluctant to become involved. Scott and the other campers were all inviting and willing to help, so almost immediately, I was excited to begin working. Camp was fascinating. Woodworking was much more compelling than I would have imagined. The satisfaction of creating something, putting in the effort to make it your own, and feeling the progress as it happened was amazing. I looked forward to attending camp, and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with those who would listen. Furthermore, I should add that the rubber-band gun works well, and the tongue drum sounds fantastic. This was truly an unforgettable experience and an important life skill.”
-LB, age 15
Here are some photos from past camps!