Woodworking as a Medium for Self-Discovery

Seated in a circle on the braided rug on the floor in the Maple Tree Kindergarten class, 17 children watch as Heinz works with one child on his woodworking project. The children are making buttons from moosewood (called that because moose love to rub their antlers on these trees – a fact the children love, Heinz says) and they are rapt as they watch the hand drill spinning round, waiting for their turn.

Heinz Rathmann has been teaching woodworking for 21 years now, and this is his fourth year at OVWS. He works with grades 4-8 as well as the Kindergarten. This is the second project for the Kindergarteners; with the first, the children learned how to hit nails into a beautiful round of birch, striking the nails strong and true. Then they wound colorful string around the pattern of nails for a lovely piece that resembles a web.

Heinz says the value of woodworking is similar regardless of the children’s ages. They learn how to move with the tool, something that is as important for the Kindergartener as it is for the 8th grader. When this work is positively expressed, Heinz says, it forms a healthy dance as the work and the movement flow with the tool. They also learn “patience and perseverance, and to strive for the best they can do,” he adds, something that comes forth during the physical act of creating an object.

The seventh graders are working on three-legged stools now during their woodworking guild. They are working with pine, and each stool seat is a work of art unique to the student creating it.

Heinz says that all of the students learn something in the process: Some start with creativity and learn patience; others may start with a greater level of patience and learn to express their creativity through working with the wood. And they always learn about themselves during the process.

For Heinz, that’s the wonderful part. “I love to see them grow and learn about themselves.”