For the past three years, craftsman Kerryn Carter, has been teaching woodworking to eager students in Sydney, Australia, through a program called ‘Tool School’. Four school terms a year, six classes per term, one hour per class, Ms. Carter creates a hands-on learning environment where students can learn woodshop fundamentals and build something tangible.
Kerryn’s own interest in woodworking was sparked as a child. “Dad was a woodwork and metalwork teacher at school when I was a kid, so I became his sidekick in his workshop. I wanted to go on with woodwork, and he said I could as long as I went to University and had another career,” she remembers. Upon finishing high school, Ms. Carter attended college at the University of Arizona, worked as a corporate accountant in the US and Canada, moved to Malaysia to volunteer with an organization teaching disabled individuals how to ride horses, and then found herself back in Australia attending law school and eventually practicing law. Kerryn also began working on some renovation projects with her father. It was during this time that he very unexpectedly passed away. “All of the sudden, amidst some pretty intense grief, a complete workshop full of machines, tools and jigs arrived at my house,” Ms. Carter recalls. Having no idea where to begin using all of the newly inherited tools, Kerryn began taking some evening woodworking classes. “My workshop at home slowly took form. My own kids began coming in and so the teaching began.”
As Ms. Carter began teaching her own children some basic woodworking tasks, her friends would drop off their children to join in. With the growing community interest in woodcraft, Kerryn decided to offer classes to students calling it, ‘Tool School’. “The projects I run are all based on objects that can get away with not being square. Squareness slows kids down and slowing kids down kills interest,” she explains. Kerryn bases her project ideas on things that she thinks will keep the kids interested and focused. “I have redone the old woodworking favorites like cars, bird houses, guns, etc., but I always try to provide an update to make it relevant to something already popular like making a car a Hummer or making a gun a Star Wars blaster. It is the details that the kids really love, and that is where I am kind of different to most traditional woodwork teachers.”
Kerryn has received International attention for her work with students and in particular her encouragement of young women to learn the craft of woodworking. “Some of the girls I
teach who were previously lacking in self esteem and confidence are developing into confident young women. I know it is empowering being able to pick up a tool and handle it with confidence. These girls are changing and I am hoping that they view me, what I do, and what I teach them, as an alternative universe to the images presented by teen girl magazines and other media.” Ms. Carter also is using the class to encourage the students to think of others. This past Christmas, her students built wooden cars to donate to the Salvation Army’s gift drive. “I thought it was a great project because it really resonated with some of my students, particularly the older ones, that there would be kids out there who might not get any gifts for Christmas. It was a small demonstration that a child of age six can impact the life of someone else and make it slightly better.”
Kerryn Carter shares her work and project ideas for children on her Instagram page www.instagram.com/toolschool.
By Jennifer Bower