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Thread: Project ideas for Middle School kids

  1. #1

    Project ideas for Middle School kids

    I have been teaching woodworking to a group of middle school kids for a couple of hours a week for the past 8 weeks. We built a book rack, a desk clock, wooden pens, and a bowling game in that time. I have now been asked to do an advanced class and I'm at a complete loss for ideas of what to do next. The sessions are 2 hours, 1 day a week for 8 weeks so we have 16 hours of instruction. The other constraint is that materials need to cost under $25/kid.

    Anybody have any ideas of some projects that kids would like that would teach them some advanced skills? They are already proficient on all of the machines, so I'm thinking it's more about joinery techniques or something like that. Help!

  2. #2
    How about small jewelery boxes with box joints should be able to come in under 25 dollars.

  3. #3
    If you have access to lathes, hand mirrors come to mind. Below is a link to a demonstration John Lucas did on hand mirrors. The specs are at the bottom of the page.

    The other thing that comes to mind is an article from about 3-4 years ago in the AAW magazine. A turner took a 2x4, cut it up and made a platter out of it. He used something like a herringbone interlocking patter in it. This may not work if you have mini lathes though.
    May all your turnings be smooth,

    Brodie Brickey

  4. #4
    Thanks for the ideas. A jewelry box would work well. I would like to do a turning project but I only have 8 lathes and 10 kids. I'll have to think about that and see if I could easily split them up. The problem with this age group is that they can do a lot of things independently (like drilling, scrollsaw, crosscutting on the SawStop, using the laser engraver), they still need hand holding with some of the other tools. So breaking them up into groups I have to have tasks that one group can do independently.

  5. #5
    Well Craig, my kids who aren't in Middle School yet (9 & 10, both in 4th grade) are building their own ice fishing rods and want to make their own camping knives and leather sheaths. Starting with good knife blanks (North Coast Knives) they'll learn to;

    cut and shape handle blank with the scroll saw
    use a stationary belt sander for shaping the handle
    mixing and using epoxy (they've learn that through rod building)
    cutting brass with a hacksaw
    peening metal (which is very cool)
    finishing and buffing
    designing a simple leatherwork project
    cutting and forming leather
    punching sewing holes
    leather decoration (they're learning that now on some other projects)
    sewing leather
    leather rivets and snaps
    finishing leather

    With that they'l have a very good knife to use while camping, etc and then they'll learn how to establish and maintain a sharp edge.

  6. #6
    When I was that age, (12 or so), we made lazy susans about 12" across. We had our choice from several different wood species, as we had a lot of smallish scrap-size pieces ranging from about 1/2" to 2" wide. It was fun because it was really the only way at that age and that budget to work with exotics like zebrawood or padauk, and because of the selection each kids' project was totally unique. We freehanded the circles at the bandsaw and then cleaned up the edges on the disc sander, and rounded over the top edge at the router table.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    State Capital, WI
    How about an old school toolbox?


    You could add some box joints or half blind dovetails with a jig. The laser engraver could add an additional step to the project for the kids to personalize it? I would have loved that at my age being able to use a router, lathe, table saw, planer, and LASER ENGRAVER!

    have fun....
    oops ....1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 - yup all there, whew!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    South Alabama
    wooden dragsters are fun at that age
    look for a company called pitsco on the web or pm me and I will send you links
    they have alot of other projects also

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    You can let the kids create their own sword and shields.A friend and I did this at about the same age.The great part is they create their own designs of the wood and finish.Its been many years ago but If my memory is correct we did leather hilts and all.

  10. Project ideas for Middle School kids

    This link describes two books that might give you ideas:

    The 4th chapter of Builder Boards documents a service learning project where nine eighth graders measured, cut, notched, beveled, sanded, oiled, stapled, glued, and videotaped the construction process. After serious deliberation, which was an important part of the process, they chose a women's shelter to receive the set.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    On the river in Ohio

    Tool Box

    I'd suggest a simple tool box, 15 long, 5 high and 7 deep. The top and bottom out of 1/2 ply with the rest out of 3/4 pine. Screw and glue it together then stain and varnish. Add brass hinges, hasp and handle. This toolbox covers all the basic skills and will last the maker for years,

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Breckenridge View Post
    I'd suggest a simple tool box, 15 long, 5 high and 7 deep. The top and bottom out of 1/2 ply with the rest out of 3/4 pine. Screw and glue it together then stain and varnish. Add brass hinges, hasp and handle. This toolbox covers all the basic skills and will last the maker for years,
    I've thought about this but it only covers 2 class sessions. The class is also 50/50 girl/boy and the girls typically aren't interested in a toolbox (some are but most aren't)

  13. #13
    How about the old standby of a spice rack..

    Or maybe a small cabinent that could be hung over the toilet to keep bathroom supplies in. I built a bunch of those for people out of odds and ends of oak plywood. It would be a good way to introduce them to working with plywood (gluing on hardwood edging, making face frames, maybe even making a door for it, euro hinges, etc).

    I would think you'd have no problem buying the supplies for 10 for $250, as you can make them only 4" or 6" deep.

  14. #14

    How about Bandsaw Boxes for a Project

    Mr. Colvin,

    How about each student design their own bandsaw box. There are many patterns available to use if the students don't want to design their own. The whole process would include wood preparation, layout, sawing with bandsaw, sanding, and finishing. The material would be inexpensive since they can be made from plain wood to exotics. Most material dimensions will be around 7" thick x 8" tall x 12 to 14" long. Glue 7 boards together to make a block to cut the box out of. Just a suggestion.


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Jonesboro, Arkansas

    I recommend bluebird houses. I started doing this a few years ago with my kids and their classes, and I am still asked to come back every spring to the school.
    The plan I have use uses 1 cedar fence board per house. I have an arrangement where the local Lowes donates the lumber and supplies, including kid-sized apron. I cut all of the pieces in advance, put them all in a 1-gallon ziplock bag, which makes construction go much easier.

    It has become quite a hit around the school with other schools calling to ask if they can do the same. We only do it once a year for this one school, due to limited time available on my part.

    Let me know if you would like further information or a pattern for the plan and I will see what I can come up with.


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