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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High students can be woodworking certified, transfer skills to other classes

May 26, 2020 11:21AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“Wood shop is a metaphor for life—we are all trying to create something worthwhile.”

That is the philosophy of Hillcrest High School’s woodworking teacher Alaina Hales.

“I teach students problem-solving, conflict resolution. They work through their problems whether it’s with wood and projects or papers and deadlines. Each of us makes mistakes, but we need to learn compromise and revisions. These woodworking skills are transferable to any class and any part of life,” she said.

At Hillcrest, there are multiple woodworking classes, from furniture design to acoustic guitar building, all supporting the same principles of problem-solving, Hales said.

“If the plan says 34 inches wide and a student cuts inside so it’s short, then students will revise the plan and certain adjustments will be made. If we understand the principles, how things are constructed, then we can solve all sorts of problems and not just in furniture making, but in anything we do,” she said.

Hales also emphases other life skills — punctuality, respectfulness, teamwork, deadlines — to help students become successful.

And new this year, Hillcrest students also have a chance to be certified in woodworking.

As a new member of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, Hillcrest will have access to training materials and videos, plus free and exclusive discounts for woodshop necessities, said Kevin Wood, Hillcrest CTE coordinator who previously taught woodworking for 19 years.

“Our students will be able to get basic certification for industry standards from safety to using table saws,” he said, adding that the school pays for the certification. “Industry will know that this person with a certification has knowledge in the basics in the field.”

While he said the Woodwork Career Alliance has been well known on the East Coast, it is becoming better known in the West.

“We hope it will bridge us with industry and create business partnerships. Employers will know our students are coming out of the program certified and know they have that level of training in woodworking,” he said.

Already students are enrolled in woodworking not only for the enjoyment or to fill a class credit, but to learn skills they can use in life and in their careers.

Senior Riley Meyers, who plans to attend Southern Utah University in the fall, enrolled because “I didn’t like the other art options.” 

“I wanted to understand how wood works, and I’ve been able to fine-tune my skills,” she said. “I’ve learned how wood is joined together, how some wood is stiff and others are flexible, how to use what I know in projects.”

Meyers has made a clipboard, a desk and a keepsake box, but she’s also learned skills that have transferred to her love of technical theater.

“It’s pretty cool. We make things that are beautiful and call it good with the 40-foot rule, which is about as close to the stage as you get from the front row. What I’m learning in woodworking is helping me when we create on stage,” Meyers said.

Senior Andrew Walker also has been combining his knowledge of woodworking with his love of musical theatre.

“I thought it would provide me with a good set of knowledge,” he said. “It’s been cool to learn skills, no matter what I will do in the future.”

After completing a couple of projects, he decided to make a shot glass cabinet for his dad’s collection as an upcoming birthday and Father’s Day present.

“It was cool to design something to make,” he said, adding that Hales passed off on the project. “I’ve learned about safety and use of the machines, even though it was a little terrifying at first. I can look at the details, know how to make something look good and adapt if I need to, which works well on stage as well as with projects I’ve made.”

Junior Owen-Roe Allred has learned a little about wood through his life from his first Pinewood Derby car with Boy Scouts to admiring the house addition his dad constructed. Last spring, he displayed his end table in the school’s showcase and is planning to build a desk next year.

“I like to make things starting with figuring out in my brain how they will be constructed,” he said. “Once I figure out what I’m doing, I can kick out the projects pretty fast. It helps with my spatial awareness, where things go, the pitch, the angle, the path I need to take to make it work.”

Allred said he has found it is something he enjoys and wants to continue doing with the skills he has learned.

“Woodworking is fun. It motivates me to come to school,” he said. “I’m understanding what I’m doing and why and we’re there to help each other out.”