Students tell the Times about the class and their projects

    Trying to educate 27 students who are just starting to learn the basics in the carpentry world might not be an easy task, but Crookston High School teacher Travis Oliver is up for the challenge. And he seems to be doing things right judging by the quality of the products the students are producing.

    The Beginning Woods intro course at CHS has two sections of students who are given the chance to use industrial machines, learn about safety while working, and build projects both to be graded on and to take home as a gift. Each student has the opportunity to construct at least one useful piece of cabinetry-type furniture with this semester’s main project being a nightstand.

    Oliver says the students who are near complete with their nightstand were also given the opportunity to make a gift for a family member or friend in December with many kids choosing cutting boards made out of a variety of woods.

    While Oliver says he doesn’t grade on how fast-paced a student works, he does grade on quality, attendance and how the end product looks. According to the course standards found on the CHS website, students should follow 16 standards including being able to identify elements and principles of design as they apply to cabinetmaking/millwork manufacturing, demonstrate safe practices and the safe use of hand tools and portable power tools, demonstrate the proper use of cutting machines/edge and surfacing machines/boring machines/sanding machines, and distinguish between softwoods and hardwoods.

   Another standard includes the student being able to understand and demonstrate basic math and measuring concepts, which Oliver says is quite important along with English/Composition even for students wanting to leave high school and work in the carpentry industry.

    “I’ve run into it many times in the industry where a guy didn’t go to college and has a hard time communicating with supervisors or even customers because they didn’t get those speaking/writing skills they would have learned in a Comp class,” explained Oliver. “My students are learning that math, especially, is also quite important in the carpentry business.”


    Two CHS juniors, Dilon Owens and Darius Narvaez, recently spoke with the Times in the Beginning Woods classroom and each shared their thoughts/opinions about this semester’s project. Here are their answers to the Times’ questions:

Times: When did you start your nightstand?
    Owens: Midway through September
    Narvaez: We all started roughly the same time

Times: Did you know how to use some of the equipment before you took this class or are you brand new to it all?
    Owens: I knew some of the equipment before
    Narvaez: I work for a construction job so I knew a little bit, but I’m learning some new things in the class

Times: What is your favorite piece of equipment to work with?
    Owens: Chop Saw
    Narvaez: Table saw because of the safety features like if your finger touches it, it drops back into itself so you don’t get hurt

Times: What was the most difficult part of building your nightstand?
    Owens: Getting everything to the certain size to fit
    Narvaez: Making sure the measurements were right

Times: Anything else you want to add?
    Owens: Nope
    Narvaez: I eventually want to have my own construction business and next year I plan to do Advanced Woods and the Construction Trades classes


    “A lot of these guys will need furniture when they graduate or move out of their parents’ houses, and this class and the others will hopefully teach them they can build their own furniture,” Oliver added. “There’s zero percent chance of these students coming out with the exact same project and that’s a good thing.”

    “I always want them to be productive and we don’t have a lot of tests,” he continued. “It’s nice for them to be able to show their families what they helped produce and, when they get older, if they take the CT class, they’ll be able to drive by the house they helped build and reminisce about working on it.”