With the smell of pinewood in the air, the teenagers measured, drilled and sawed to get themselves acquainted with the wood shop.
Noah Zebron, 12, of Utica became aware of an area woodshop program after his friend told him about it.
Zebron thought the summer camp would be fun and give him the opportunity to use power tools as he’s never experienced a class like this one before.
This week, a free new Summer Woods Camp is providing seventh and eighth graders a hands-on learning experience to construct a product using all major tools in a wood shop at La Salle-Peru Township High School.
The district was able to offer the Woods Camp free through the financial support of the Area Career Center, said superintendent Steve Wrobleski.
Tuesday morning, eight boys and one girl learned about shop safety, a general introduction to woods and blueprint reading from L-P-Area Career Center woods teacher Harold Burr.
The students will make a wooden toolbox by the end of the camp they’ll each get to take home.
Tools the students will use by the end of the week include a band saw, miter saw, router, cordless drill, sander and finishing tools.
Area superintendents have been kicking around the idea of the program for the past two years, Wrobleski said.
“We want to create opportunities for kids to be able to have a meaningful experience working with their hands,” Wrobleski said.
Based on how this summer goes, the district hopes to expand the program next summer and offer more programs than just the woods one, such as dealing with the machine shop or with drafting.
The wood shop program was well received by the community — within two minutes of the district posting the program on the internet, the phone started ringing.
Why was it so popular?
“A lot of your woodshops and CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs in middle schools have been phased out because of cost-saving measures,” Wrobleski said.
Are kids interested in this profession?
At least three students raised their hands when Dave Argubright of Spring Valley asked them if they’re interested in the profession or working with their hands.
“The projects you guys are building here are fantastic,” said Argubright who is from Carpenters Local 174 and Illinois Valley Building and Construction Trades Council. “These are a lot of things you’ll do on the job site.”
Argubright spoke to the students about opportunities for them.
“This is a great, great start right here. I wish they had these classes back when I was younger back in the summer,” Argubright said.