Oakland woodshop celebrates 50 years

February 4, 2010 8:32:40 PM PST
An Oakland middle school claims to have the oldest woodshop program in California -- 50 years and still going strong. Still, in this era of high tech students love the shop.

More than 50 years ago, there was typing, home economics, and of course, woodshop in our schools. Today, Montera Middle School in Oakland still teaches the art of working with wood.

"I like the sanding because I get to do it the old fashion way, just grab some sandpaper and rub on the wood," says woodshop student Callum McGrath.

"We've only broken two blades and you know how long they normally last," says teacher David Allred.

"Sometimes the cutting is hard, but I still like it and it's better when you put it together because you know that you are almost done," says woodshop student Briona Winston.

Woodshop is an elective here -- a popular one with students.

"'Oh Mr. Allred, are you the woodshop teacher? Because I want to take it next year' and that's so cool," says Allred when describing the excitement students have for the class.

The program even has a support network called "Friends of Montera Woodshop." Parents, alumni and people in the community are behind it. That is one of the reasons it has been around for 50 years.

Making something out of wood helps students understand math concepts, measurement and spatial awareness -- stuff you may not necessarily learn on a computer. And today, girls enjoy the hands-on experience as much as the boys.

"We have understood how the motor works in special kinds of saws, that was really fun," says woodshop student Frances Morgan.

"The female students are some of my best students. They are more detail-oriented more dedicated to starting a task and finishing it," says Allred.

They leave the class proud of what they have accomplished.

"I do a lot on the computer and I appreciate the value of it, but it's the tools that you see around her and the hand tool, there will always be a need for it," says Allred.