John F. Kennedy  Elementary School Woodworking Residency

This spring, we experienced the joy of enthusiastic learners at the J.F. Kennedy Elementary School, in Jamaica Plain. For 8 weeks, we measured, sawed, and hammered with all the school’s Kindergarten classes. Our woodworking residency supported the students’ unit on construction when all of Boston’s K2 students focus on what it means to construct music, recipes, dances, stories, and more. We are grateful to the Mass Cultural Council’s STARS Residencies Program for their support.

Ian Haines, our lead instructor, conducted the classes in English and Spanish. The students made sculptures and a bench. They learned to use a straight saw, coping saw, clamps, squares, and sandpaper. In the end, they painted their projects with bright, inspiring colors. The wonderful teachers from the J.F. Kennedy School connected the woodworking lessons with their construction unit curriculum.

People are surprised that little five-year-olds can wield a hammer. But they do it well. The kids are excited to build and create. Meanwhile, they practice important Kindergarten skills, learning how to use listening ears and follow instructions, how to support each other and be collaborative, how to accept and learn from mistakes and enjoy problem-solving.

Eliot School Associate Director Alison Croney Moses, reflects: “This residency epitomizes the kind of mission-aligned work we strive toward, to inspire lifelong learning in craft and creativity–starting right from Kindergarten.

“Our goal is to build that pathway. In elementary school, it means exposing kids to a lot of foundational artistic and social-emotional skills through our woodworking residency. They will carry those skills into middle school, where they may use art to process their experiences while transitioning from childhood toward adulthood. Then onto high school, where it’s really about career pathways. Even if they don't follow a career in the arts, they're gaining relevant skills like creative problem solving and perseverance.”

Ellie Wyant, a K2 teacher, loved bringing the residency to her classroom, “The woodworking program with the Eliot School has been an invaluable experience for students and teachers. It was empowering for students to be able to use ‘adult’ tools to construct something of their own. Woodworking required students to practice collaboration, problem-solving, and persistence. We hope to continue working with this program for years to come!” 

We are very interested in expanding our Kindergarten woodworking residency to more schools next year. Let us know if you’d like to bring us to your school.

We are grateful to the Mass Cultural Council’s STARS Residencies Program for making this project possible, along with other arts residencies in public schools throughout Massachusetts.