Evolution of Wood Shop


Photo by: Aimee Barrera

Caiden Thompson, senior, sanding his wooden guitar in his sixth period woodshop class.

With his background in product design, toy design, and inventing, Mr. Peter Watchel, Cam High’s new Wood shop teacher, is busy planning a new curriculum and gathering teaching materials for his Wood shop students this year and years to come.

Watchel started augmenting the Wood shop program after principal Dr. Kim Stephenson asked him to make updates. Watchel replaced previous wood shop teacher Mr. Chip Mills due to his retirement. With a new teacher, Stephenson wanted to also make new updates to the curriculum.”Instead of building basic wood projects, [students] are doing some research and trying to invent or design a product, like a bar stool, or guitar, or skate board, instead of a table. So [… the class is] more relevant,” Watchel said.

In past years, common projects would constrain students to certain restrictions of what they could and could not create. Students were restricted to make things like guitars, skateboards, inventions, cutting boards, bird houses, toys, and things of such nature; things that have already been invented. With Watchel’s new curriculum, students will now be given the opportunity to invent products as well as build them.

“This is my second year taking [Wood shop], and [I’d say] so far so good,” said returning wood shop student junior Jose Villegas. “The other teacher took like one month to go over all the safety, but Mr. Watchel [goes over guidelines] faster so we have more time to have fun and build more stuff. First we build stools and stuff like that and then he lets you build anything that you want. It’s pretty cool, I love it.”

One of Watchel’s goals for updating the curriculum is to take the wood shop to the 21st century. “[I would like to make Wood shop more modern] so that we can design and develop products that are made of wood, but can be disguised as plastic, I’m planning to do some cross collaboration with other classes, like physics,” he said.

“What I proposed to the district and the Ventura County Department of Education and the Career Technical Education boards is […] to switch Wood 1 and 2 to Product Design 1 and 2, and Cabinet Making to Advanced Product Design. That way it would streamline career paths,” said Watchel.  “The 3 new class proposals have been submitted and almost all approved. The classes would be Product Innovation & Design 1, 2 & 3 and will be in the wood shop and use wood, plastic a 3D printer and expose students to the woruld of product development, innovation, design and entrepreneurship. If all goes well, they will be offered Fall of 2017.”

“We would still use the same machines and tools so nothing would go to waste. We would maybe get a couple more [machines] like a 3-D printer. That way it would try to tie more of the AutoCAD class into wood shop.” A new 3D printer, which we Cam High has funds totaling around $3000 for from a Carl Perkins grant, is hoping to be put into place for Cam High. According to Watchel, Cam High has also started an online store at ACHS in which wood shop students make and sell products for donations to help fund the Wood shop program and give them business experience.

As of now, Watchel teaches AutoCAD (computer aided drafting class), architecture, Wood 1, Wood 2, and Cabinet Making. “I don’t want the classes [I teach] to be separated as much. The thing about all the classes in high school [is that they] are separated and nothing really means anything,” said Watchel. “But when you get out there in the world, you have to figure out how everything connects. “[In my class, for instance], students will not only learn how to draft, think creatively, use critical thinking skills for problem solving, but also will design a product either themselves or for a potential market,” said Watchel.

Watchel hopes to invite product design companies to visit and give students projects to work on. “I have two coming in, one is with Apple and iPhone products where the students will be able to design iPhone accessories. They can make the product out of wood or plastic and then paint it, and then there’s a product and have relative real world experience,” said Watchel. He also wants to incorporate more fun activities, like field trips, into the classes, so students can experience hands-on products they will be using in wood shop.

Watchel is hoping to hear back from the district soon, but until then is gradually integrating his style into the current curriculum.