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Woodworking In a Virtual World
May 14, 2021
How on earth can you possibly teach students woodworking and carpentry from a distance? FCHS Carpentry teacher Paul Chirico stepped up to the challenge this year in an effort to give his students the best learning experience possible during these difficult times.
Chirico felt that a typical virtual class was both boring and frustrating at the same time. “There was a total lack of feedback, both verbal and nonverbal, in regards to what we were learning,” he said. He got no feedback to determine if his students were comprehending the material. “The technology was not always kind and a brief interruption in service could completely sabotage a class meeting,” he said.
He explained that there’s no substitute for hands-on learning. “Students who have not attended [virtual class] did not acquire any physical skills. The only thing they have acquired is jargon (vocabulary) and knowledge about wood,” said Chirico. He noted that many of his students had passed their math classes, but couldn’t read a ruler. “The reason being is that they have never been asked to apply the knowledge in a real situation, such as measuring a board,” he explained.
One of Chirico’s favorite sayings is “Knowledge without application is somewhat of a wasted endeavor.” He believes that the inconsistent attendance of students at school this year presents a challenge in day-to-day activities, although he noted that now that many students have come back to school, class is more enjoyable and productive. “I have changed a few things, such as adding class-based projects as opposed to individual projects, which at this point is working well,” he said.
Chirico is a self-taught teacher who has been teaching carpentry for six years and is driven to teach students woodshop by his love for working with wood, as well as to be able to design it into beautiful and functional pieces of furniture. “I enjoy passing my skills and knowledge onto others, while at the same time learning new things in the process,” he said.
Chirico, who teaches both Carpentry I and II, is not a licensed contractor, but has done some contract work for local builders and remodeled his own home. Class projects include building a tool box, a jewelry box, a coffee table, and gun cabinet in Carpentry I, and a large structure, such as a pavilion or a pergola, in Carpentry II.
Now, that more students are back in the school building, Chirico and his classes are building a learning pavilion in conjunction with the Student Government Association (SGA) in the woods behind the school. He said that they are also building an information kiosk that will lead to the trails through the school property.