Turning Around Boston

Bringing Woodworking to Boston’s Schoolchildren

presented by the Eliot School & Turning Around America

In October 2013, we sent woodturner Beth Ireland in her mobile woodworking van to 21 different Boston Public Schools, low income housing projects, the Boy Scouts' annual Pumpkinfest and other places where children gather. There, 1,048 children each made a wooden pen or whistle by hand with Beth. In a few cases, we brought out mini-lathes for children to do some wood turning as well. Read more in the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

Beth's first visit was to South Street Youth Center, in Jamaica Plain. The Director wrote: “It was GREAT! The kids loved it. It was such a nice shift from what we’re normally able to offer and the mixture of focus, physical activity and concentration and artistic engagement was really wonderful to behold!”

We believe children benefit enormously from hands-on learning. Woodworking – “shop” – is gone from Boston’s public elementary and middle schools. Along with others, we are working to bring it back. Making things by hand changes children’s relationship to their world, teaches them real-life math and conceptual skills, and engages them in problem-solving and creative risk-taking.

By providing this taste of woodworking, we have shown children, parents, teachers and principals its value – and promoted hands-on learning in our schools. Private schools have it, fancy summer camps have it. Let’s bring lifelong learning in craftsmanship and creativity to all, regardless of income or ability to pay.

Turning Around America

Beth Ireland has become a passionate advocate of hands-on learning for all. She spent 2012 traveling across the United States in her van equipped with a mini workshop and a personal living space. She stopped at schools and art centers, in small towns and big ones, covering 25,000 miles and teaching over two thousand people how to turn wood. Jenn Moller collaborated with digital support. Ireland and Moller then traveled to Guatemala, teaching people in a small village to make windows, doors and household items out of wood.

Beth has written, “I was just going to teach as many people as I could how to make a simple wooden object. It became so much more.”

See work by Beth Ireland and learn more about Turning Around America.

American Woodturner Journal published this article about Turning Around America in their August 2012 issue.

Read more about Turning Around Boston in the Jamaica Plain Gazette.