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Girls explore woodworking through Brighton High’s summer workshop

Aug 28, 2017 11:42AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

During a free Brighton High summer woodworking workshop, middle school and high school girls used creativity to design and build projects. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | Julie@mycityjournals.com

More girls may be enrolling in Brighton High’s woodworking and engineering design courses this fall, thanks to a summer workshop targeting middle school and high school girls to get hands-on experience.

This is the third summer Brighton has offered the free one-day class, encouraging girls to learn non-traditional skills, said Paul Otterstrom, who taught the workshop two days this summer. Boys also take the workshop.

“We teach safety, then give an introduction to solving problems, designing and engineering in the wood shop,” he said. “Many start without any experience, but once they begin, they realize ‘I can do this.’”

This summer, students made three wood projects — an ice-cream scoop handle, a night light cover and a bracelet. Some students also had time to make a magic wand.

“The ice-cream handle is popular — what kid doesn’t like ice cream? All the projects require the students to learn skills, but they’re able to walk away with completed projects the same day they come,” Otterstrom said.  

With the ice-cream handle project, students design the handle, and then select pieces of leftover wood in the shop and use the lathe to create the shape.  

“It’s a good lesson in engineering, not only to see what will work best in their grip, but also to make it attractive.  They know if they create too many grooves or notches that bacteria can reside there since it’s a kitchen tool,” Otterstrom said.

After the handle is perfected, mineral oil is added and it is fit onto an ice-cream scoop.

Students also learn the laser for their nightlight cover.

“They use the lathe and laser and learn quickly. I see their eyes open and they get excited. For many, making something for the first time is pretty cool,” he said.

Brighton Career and Technical Education Coordinator Denise Hodges hopes this experience opens the doors for more students to enroll in classes.

“It opens up a new world to many of the students and makes them feel more comfortable at the school and in the classes,” she said. “They learn what engineering is like, get to have some hands-on woodworking classes and know they can envision and create doing more technical designs.”

Hodges said sometimes students watch before trying.

“Many of them are nervous at first, but as they try, it just clicks and they have a lot of fun,” she said.

Brighton sophomore Savannah Stapleton, who assisted students, has loved being in the woodworking lab.

“It’s really fun to see the wood transform, making some really cool projects,” she said. “I’ve made all three projects, but in Woodworking I, I made a nightstand out of knotty alder wood using the same skills. It’s creating and designing and fun.”

This is the third summer Brighton has offered the program. Otterstrom said it first began with a $6,000 grant from the Utah State Office of Education to target girls to encourage enrollment in non-traditional courses. For the past two summers, Canyons School District has continued to fund the workshop. This year, the workshop was so popular students were put on a waiting list.   

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