By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — It’s more than just hammering a nail.
Lessons learned in Londonderry High School’s advanced woodworking classes go much further. It’s about life.
Students who take on the woodworking curriculum were recently honored at the 10th annual New England Student Woodworking Design Competition last month in Marlborough, Mass.
The end result of many mon ths of hard work paid off with five Londonderry High students entering this year’s contest, three earning honorable mention honors and two winning tools for their entries.
The crafted pieces were recently on display in the high school’s lobby and included a sleigh bed, clock, two tables and a porch swing.
The young woman behind that porch swing, 17-year-old senior Rachel Cummings, said she worked almost all year on her design. She is one of several women taking the school’s advanced studies in wood and earned an honorable mention for her swing.
“I’ve been in wood shop for three years,” Rachel said. “It’s different, it wasn’t like other classes. You learn something different other than English or anything else.”
She said following graduation in June, her family will be moving to a new home with a screened-in porch that will be perfect for her swing.
“That’s where it’s going,” she said.
Rachel hopes to study architecture in college. Learning about crafting wood taught her well to prepare for her future, she said.
Technical education teacher Tom Ciccarello said students were so proud of their work that it was only fitting to let the entire school community catch a glimpse of their efforts in the lobby for a few days.
The class teaches problem-solving skills, Ciccarello said, along with the various talents with tools.
Add in the freedom of creating an original product from a block of wood and that adds to the allure.
Farrah Ashe, 18, made a coffee table.
“It allows you a lot of freedom,” she said. “You can make whatever you want.”
The three other students entering the competition were Robert Brouillard, creating a Shaker wall clock; Nathan Greenwood with his replica day bed; and Austin Marino for a hall table.
Ciccarello said some students are just not academically inclined, but are good with hands-on work. For some students, it’s a first time dealing with the stress of completing a project, including the failures and changes that might occur along the way. The end result is the pride that comes from seeing it through.
“You’re going to make mistakes,” Ciccarello said. “But it helps them learn to overcome mistakes. There are a lot of world lessons on how to deal with setbacks.”
The high school offers several courses in woodworking, including exploring wood, woodworking technology, and advanced woodworking that includes working with hand tools and sign carving.
Ciccarello has been at the school since the building opened in 1978. He said a junior high teacher inspired his own love of craftsmanship.
He said students learn so much in his classes and he is very proud of what they create, learning valuable, functional lessons along the way.
“It’s about them having resources, and asking, ‘How do we make it come out right?’” Ciccarello said. “I expect them to make mistakes. If something goes wrong, you fix it. It’s like life.”