According to Kulshan Middle School career and technical education (CTE) teacher Rob Hendricks, Jaxson Hall was the perfect student to assist in bringing back to life an antique student desk. Hendricks and his wife Katherine found the old dusty desk forgotten in the corner of a Lynden antique store. They purchased it with the purpose to bring it into his school’s workshop as part of his program’s emphasis on recycling and upcycling, reducing and re-using. For this particular project, he says he knew the right student for the job: Jaxson.
Jaxson, currently an eighth grader at Kulshan, methodically took apart the 1920’s desk, sandblasting and painting the iron piece by piece, and fixing and seamlessly glueing the broken wooden back. After re-staining the wood, he then put everything back together to its refurbished, good-as-new condition. Except for a little help with the staining from his grandfather Mike Hall, who happens to be a retired shop teacher from Fairhaven Middle School, Jaxson took on this project solo and used his growing skills with shop machines and tools to make it beautiful again.

When we asked Jaxson if he had a favorite tool or machine in the shop, he had the answer of a craftsman.“It’s hard to pick which tool is my favorite because each tool has its own use,” he said.

Listing off the tools he used with ease, his confidence surpassed his mere 13 years of age. “The tools we have in the Kulshan shop are bandsaws, a drill press, disk and belt sanders, a chop saw, laser cutters, 3D printers, and a vinyl cutter. We also have hand sanders and hand drills.”

Aside from his hands-on technical skills, Jaxson also serves as a bit of a student helper for his teacher. “I help Mr. Hendricks by getting stuff ready for projects,” he said, “and I help kids in the class that are new to woodworking and with 3D designing on the computers in the classroom.”

Jaxson is excited to continue his technical skills in high school in workshops that have equipment that he hasn’t explored yet.

Jaxson’s desk project, and many others like it, are part of the Kulshan CTE program where Hendricks introduces the concept of “Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse” to his students, making connections between how their new skills can improve their lives and the larger world. With hands-on experience in the shop, he wants his students to become “renaissance individuals,” discovering how things work and how to fix them.

“Each year, many appliances, bikes, toys, furniture, etc. end up in our landfills,” Hendricks says.  “Many of these items could easily have been repaired or re-purposed.”

Aside from the sustainability emphasis, Hendricks sees another lesson in his shop, one that leads to personal confidence that comes from teaching shop skills and knowing how to fix something that is broken. “There is great, personal satisfaction in knowing how to be self-sufficient; how to fix a loose bike chain or door handle,” he said.

“We will keep looking for more opportunities to help students discover ways to apply their problem-solving skills towards helping members of their community, as well as the world around them.”

The refurbished 1920’s desk was recently on display in the District Office, the former Roeder Elementary School that was built in 1908. It is possible that this 100-year-old desk made an entire loop back to its origin in the early 20th century building. Archival photos from the Whatcom Museum show similar desks of its kind in use at former elementary schools in the district. (See archival photos from the Whatcom Museum above in slideshow.)

For more on Kulshan’s shop and CTE program, click here.

Related story here.

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