When I was in middle school I was lucky enough to be at a school that offered Metal Shop and Wood Shop, one of the few in the area.
Before I tell you why Metal Shop was great, I will tell you I wanted to take Advanced Art because in that class you got to etch a mirror. But luck of the draw put me in my 6th place elective, Drafting with Mr. B. It was one of the best things to happen to me. Unbeknownst when I put it down as my last choice, I would come to love drafting. The idea of conceptualizing things on paper combined my love of creating and art.
After the trimester of Drafting I signed up for Metal Shop, the only girl in that class by choice. I still have the tool box I created to this day. I got to be a leader in that class, helping other who didn’t understand the tools as well. That was a new thing for me, as a quiet kid in the middle of the pack kid in honors/GATE classes I didn’t get much attention.
Why did I pursue engineering in college? Sure, my love of science helped. And having parents who actively made sure their girls used tools and made things had an influence. But Mr. B. and his class made me see it as something I could do.
I love the STEM classes we have these days, but I think we miss out not having as many specific skill based classes. Drafting, Wood Shop, and Metal Shop didn’t cater to students who excelled in the maths/sciences. In those classes you would fine many of the students who had little motivation in school and little parental involvement, but Metal Shop gave them a chance to succeed.
Yes, we all made the same toolbox that trimester (though the teacher did a great job of differentiating instruction, providing support, and providing extra stages to those who finished early), but even with the cookie cutter sort of task it inspired me to believe I could create.
People criticism non-open ended crafting projects for students (which when we are dealing with tools you could crush a hand with or severely burn yourself you need some boundaries), but when done right these tasks can empower kids. So, to Mr. B. and whatever guidance tech who put me in my last place elective, thank you.