BFS

Woodshop Returns to Students’ Delight

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the woodshop at Brooklyn Friends closed its doors on March 9, 2020. Until this past September, that is! With the dawn of a new school year, Lower School visual arts classes, such as woodshop, are back and better than ever. 

“I sense a real excitement from the students to have woodshop back,“ woodshop teacher Thomas Keasling said. “There’s just a real palpable excitement and it feels great to be a part of that.” 

Each Lower School class has the opportunity to create projects in the woodshop, and—of course—those projects are age-appropriate in terms of challenging their skill levels. However, each grade starts in very much the same way—gathered around Thomas, now in his seventh year teaching woodshop at BFS—going over everything from project instructions, to strategies, and of course, safety. 

“First and foremost there is the baseline of safety, of course,” Thomas said, “but from there I think it is really important to trust the students and I have to be able to trust the kindergartners just as much as I trust the fourth graders. Without that trust, nothing happens.”

In terms of creating, Thomas has conceived what he feels is a winning formula. 

“I have taken what I felt were the best elements of what was already here and have added to that,” Thomas said. “In terms of curriculum building I design projects around introducing a new skill set, or maybe a new tool and our projects sort of build in complexity.”

For Head of Lower School Jason Novak, the return of the visual arts classes—including the immensely popular woodshop—was much-needed here at BFS. 

“There are so many reasons why we value woodshop so deeply in our programming,” Jason explained. “One is that it allows children to really think of a vision of something that they want to create and implement. They have to first think through the possibilities that are before them and then work with tools and hands-on experiences to craft and create something in the woodshop program.”

In the end, for Thomas, the most exciting part of the program is the satisfaction the students get for completing such exciting projects. 

“Once they see that they can do it, that they can actually put in the thought and effort to get it right, there is just a real sense of pride there,” Thomas said. “I think that is one of the main reasons why the woodshop has an emotional place in people’s memory about BFS.” 

This article appears in our print magazine The Life for Fall/Winter 2021.

Watch a video about the return of Woodshop.