Woodshop lesson is for girls, too

It wasn't long ago that a group of mostly high school girls didn't know the difference between a band saw and a lathe.

But this year's first Moffat County High School woodshop class aptly named "Woodshop for Scaredy Cats" is changing all that.

Sixteen of the classes 20 members are female students, a first time also that instructor Craig Conrad has whiffed the smell of "woodchips and perfume" in the same room.

"I've never smelled that in all my 21 years in teaching," he quipped.

Combining the two usually foreign elements of teenager girls and power tools was an experiment Conrad wanted to try to include more of the student body into the woodshop programs. And the results surprised him.

"The difference between the first day and today is they wouldn't have gone right up to a machine and started using it," he said of many female students' first impressions. "I think for some reasons girls are more afraid or intimidated by the equipment so they never get to try it out. For some, I think this is the first time they've used a power tool."

High school senior Samantha Janiga enrolled in the class because she wanted to take something "hands on."

"I consider myself crafty and this is something I wanted to try," she said.

Looking around the shop filled with various saws, she noted a number of machines that were a little "scary" at first. But those feelings are long gone after gaining the knowledge to work them in the comfort of a group of her peers.

"I'll bet if I had some of these tools at home, I'd feel OK using them now," Janiga said, assured.

Over the course of the class students are making ornate jewelry boxes and wooden bracelets, projects that seemed to spark the interest of most students.

But getting to that point takes skills some students hadn't explored before.

"I've never used a planer before," said senior Jori Hollenbeck. "That was kind of scary at first, but when you see what you're going to make it's worth it."

The class works well, Conrad said, because students feel safer when surrounded by their friends.

It was a situation he was keenly aware of once when a student came in with a new haircut.

"All the girls stood around and told her how nice her hair looked and so I did too," he said sheepishly. "I've never done that before."

With the fear of power tools gone, a feeling of accomplishment took over for at least one student.

"I think if you put your mind to it, anybody can do it," said Janiga. "I think this class proves that."

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