The wooden gem of WHS


Photo by photo by Viggo Jabon

Junior Jack Ruckman works on a project in Woods ll

Abby Jarecki and Jackie LaMastra

While hundreds of students and staff members walk past Room 137 every day, many do not notice the hard work and creativity that occurs behind those two wooden doors. With retro mint green paint and wood interior from wall to wall, it is clear the WHS woodshop is a place where artistry takes center stage.
A veteran of 28 years in the Westfield school district, Industrial Arts Teacher James Hart teaches Woods I and Woods II with passion and experience. In his classes, he emphasizes “craftsmanship [and] high quality work,” but above all, student safety.
Working safely is just one of the unseen skills that students acquire from this lively class; students also learn skills such as accuracy and precision.
Junior and Woods II student Jack Ruckman said he has learned to, “take extra care in what [he’s] doing so [he] can get it right on the first time and not have to do it again.”
The majority of the fun in the class comes from making your own creations out of, you guessed it, wood.
Clocks of all different shapes and sizes, even one shaped like a giant wristwatch, line the interior of the woods room. Shelves with routers and cabinetry holding tools can be found all around the room.
What do all these things have in common? They were all made by students. At the end of the year in Woods II, students must complete a shop improvement project, in which they create a new addition to Room 137.
Fulfilling either the 21st Century Life and Careers or Career-Technical Education requirement, Woods I centers around becoming familiar with the tools. Woods II is geared towards expanding the skills obtained in Woods I while also learning how to use machines in different ways. Both of these classes have one thing in common: increased independence as students gain more skills in the craft.
Both woodworking courses typically start off with a common project to get students more comfortable with the machinery. After that, it’s up to the students to choose their own adventure.
Junior Theresa Lizzo commented, “Mr. Hart gives you a lot of options; you can literally make whatever you want. Right now I’m working on a clock, and I also made a shelf to put books on.”
The room itself fosters a space of autonomous learning and building. At the end of the day, the students can feel a sense satisfaction with knowing that they created something great.
“When creating something there’s always a sense of pride, but it’s also calming for me to just be able to shape something how I want it, or build something that I wanted to build,” said WHS sophomore Jane Sullivan.
“My favorite part of teaching is seeing the kids grow,” Hart commented. “Seeing kids that come in knowing nothing and walking out with a project and seeing students helping [other] students is probably the biggest [reward].”