From left to right Central Middle School students Lindsay Christen, Colton Beck, MacKenzie Mynott, Lillian Snowball and Haley Powell with a Manitoba Maple table students at the school made as part of the Sawing for Schools project. (photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Central Middle School students learn old-school woodworking techniques

New Sawing for Schools program raises money for education while raising students’ skills

Red Deer woodworker Shawn Moore wants to encourage kids to “unplug” from electronics and learn hands-on skills.

“They don’t need any more smart boards… They need the education system to teach them some fundamentals, because if young people don’t learn to do things like woodworking, it will soon be in their history class,” said Moore.

The owner of Trimmed-Line Tree Services, started the Sawing for Schools program at Red Deer’s Central Middle School in January to inspire his Grade 6 daughter and her classmates to turning hewn logs to lumber, to finely hand-crafted wood projects.

It hasn’t taken long for his young protegees to catch on.

The beautiful dining room sets, hall tables and benches created by the 6 to 8 students, under the instruction of 15 professional mentors, will be raffled off through tickets sold at this weekend’s Home Show at Westerner Park. The draw will be held June 21.

Proceeds will go towards supporting — and possibly expanding — the popular extracurricular wood-working program, as well as to the Red Deer Public Schools’ Foundation and its equity program that allows students from lower-income families to participate in school activities.

Sawing for Schools hangs on the volunteer-ship of Moore and about 15 other woodworking professionals. They come for two afternoons a week, from 3 to 5 p.m., to mentor students on techniques, power equipment and hand tools.

Moore, who diversified his tree-cutting business into furniture making when some of his seismic line orders collapsed, due to the tough economy, began enjoying making timeless furniture out of wood that would otherwise be chipped, burned or landfill-ed.

By learning to re-purpose ash, maple, elm, poplar, willow and other native woods, Central students are learning “lumber doesn’t come from stores,” said Moore, who intends to get the students replanting in the spring. He credited public schools officials for allowing the program to run.

Bruce Buruma, executive-director of the foundation, and Darrin DeMale, principal of Central, praised Moore and the other mentors for helping excite students about the woodworking skills they will exhibit when they create whimsical sheds at the home show.

Shops teacher Rob Willms said students are learning more advanced techniques than he could teach in the classroom. “It’s become a real passion for some of them.”

About 32 teenagers have “poured their hearts and souls” into the program, said mentor Keith Westfall, of the Central Alberta Woodturners, who likes passing age-old skills to a new generation.

Grade 8 student Isaac Brandt said he loves working with new tools, while students Jack Lerouge and Erin Findlay enjoy the team-building aspects.

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