Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Three gigs, three locations, three days. Why?

A recent weekend I had was pretty hectic. Unusually, I was doing woodwork with kids in 3 different events over 3 days. Keeping an eye on 25 kids at a time using hammers, nails and saws is hectic enough, but the setting up, cleaning up, packing up, and moving it all to the next location is physically hard yakka.

Yeah, but the looks of delight on the faces of the kids as they created their masterpieces was worth all the sweat and tiredness...

Friday 30 March - Bentley Primary School Harmony Day Fair.
The School Fair was an event under Harmony Week. So appropriate for such a wonderfully multicultural school. Heaps of kids had a wonderful time making stuff with hammers, nails and saws.

Here I'm mostly set up and ready for the arrival of the kids. My small kids benches.
Parents love seeing their kids creating things with wood.
Being a Harmony Week event, many kids were wearing their national dress.
Kids quickly learn to use the bench vices to help hold their work...
Saturday 31 March - Hilton Harvest Twilight Festival.
This bunch of Community Gardeners in Hilton turn on a great event for the public which morphs into Earth Hour in the evening. Heaps of great family fun, including stalls, music, games and activities, and of course this year my woodworking area for kids...

He's too young to have known the KonTiki! His two pontoon raft has a sail and a hut on board.
This young fella was very proud of his recreation of the Titanic.

Sunday 1 April - Perth Sun Fair.
An annual event held at the University of Western Australia, the Perth Sun Fair is a renewable energy and sustainable living fair. I was in the thick of it all doing woodwork with kids, using only recycled timber, which had been rescued from the waste stream. My benches are all made from recycled timber too. Despite the odd shower of rain coming through, my woodworking area was hugely popular. I was really flat out once again, so have few photos to show for it all. 
I managed to get a photo of my area during a quite break in the crowd.
A couple of older kids made salad servers. Nice piece of New Guinea Rosewood.
Nice robot!

 So why do I like to go to Fairs and Festivals offering woodworking activities to kids?
It's pretty simple really, though multi-faceted:
  • On a mission to bring back basic woodworking hand skills as life skills, I love to introduce kids to the delights of using hammers, nails and saws to create stuff.
  • Public events like this give me access to parents too. They love to see their kids using tools, mostly for the first time. We need parents to encourage kids interest in wood working.  When a kid afterwards asks their parent "Do we have a hammer?" - I reckon I've had a win. I also talk to parents about how they can encourage their kids, by supplying appropriate tools, etc.
  • Publicity. Teachers are often in the crowd. I hope to get approached by teachers about coming to their schools after they have seen the fantastic engagement of the kids at my benches. Adults also ask me about opportunities for them to have a go at woodworking. This exposure to the public also can lead to me running other woodworking programs.
  • Promoting wood recycling. I am also on a mission to communicate the importance of wood recycling. The Western Australian context here is our continued wastage of wood. Too much wood goes into land fill, or goes into low grade uses for landscaping wood chips. Perfectly good timber framed houses are smashed up by excavators every day, with little attempts to salvage the wonderful timber in them. It mostly ends up in landfill. Native hardwood trees with valuable timber are bulldozed and burnt each day to make way for mining operations and housing developments, with little or no attempt utilise this wonderful  and diminishing resource. In fact, small sawmillers are blocked from accessing this resource through red tape and a lack of vision by authorities. Successive governments, the building industry, developers and the general public are all complacent and complicit in this unsustainable waste of our limited timber resource.  A small voice I am, but as they say: "It's the slow drip that wears away the stone". So many people are unaware of the importance of wood and trees for carbon sequestration, and of the importance of timber as a re-newable, recyclable, low energy and sustainable building material. All the material kids use in my activities is wood rescued from the waste stream, including softwood packaging crates and pallets from all over the world. 
  • People. A youth and community worker by trade as well as a woodworker, I love seeing people blossom and thrive through the benefits of being creative, making stuff together, learning and using news skills, and using their hands. There is something therapeutic for the soul when we are creative with our hands. Wood is such a wonderful medium.

In a nutshell? ... It's all about introducing people to the importance of trees and the wonderful wood they give us, and the joy of wood working as a healthy, sustainable, positive, and live-giving thing to do...

Incidentally, this note appears at the top of my other blog, The Joy of Wood for Kids:

Warning to parents: If your child becomes interested in working with wood, this may result in a variety of physical, social, and mental health consequences.

Your child will develop hand-to-eye co-ordination, learn manual skills, grow in self confidence, find expression for their natural creativity, develop problem solving skills, develop a greater appreciation for trees, reduce their dependence on electronic entertainment, build muscle strength, increase dexterity with their hands, become handy around the house in future years, and may even develop a lifelong passion for woodworking. 

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