People often ask me why I left my career as a digital product manager after 20 years to start Maplewoodshop. For me it was simple.
In 2014, after many years of enjoying woodworking and mentoring, I led a table at a local maker fair in my town, Maplewood, New Jersey. My kids and I enjoyed making projects at home. So I decided to introduce woodworking to the kids at Maker Madness. At the fair, I saw the kid’s faces light up as they got to make the project with their hands. The parents even began to tell me stories of their fond memories from shop class. The kids’ confidence grew as they were trusted with real tools and got to see their finished product at the end. At that moment, it hit me how much I enjoyed teaching kids woodworking. Soon after, with my wife’s consent, I jumped at the opportunity to take a package and leave my old job.
I knew I wanted to bring the lifelong benefits of woodworking to as many kids as possible, but I was only one person. I realized the best way to have the biggest impact was to go where the kids already were. I had to reach them in their current schools and camps, where the kids already respected their instructors and felt comfortable.
I began designing portable workstations that could fit over any desk to quickly transform existing classrooms and spaces into safe wood shops. Although I am now embarrassed by my first prototype. It was important. I was using the very life skills I was hoping to teach; problem-solving, grit, and creativity.
Nationally, school districts and camps have removed wood shop, home economics, and other vocational trainings. Based on our research, less than 5% of schools in NJ have woodworking. Without dedicated shop teachers, I had to make everything as easy as possible for anyone to teach woodworking. I added project lesson plans, professional development to train teachers, curated a list of essential hand tools, and even designed a custom tool chest that houses everything. For only 7 square feet of floor space, anyone could have a woodshop and engage a classroom full of kids.
Today, Maplewooshop is growing rapidly. As the only program in the country teaching woodworking to elementary and middle schooler, we have created a new community of woodworkers. We are currently in 25 schools and camps and have worked with countless other organizations. We can equip, train, and support your teachers and/or counselors to run our portable woodworking program themselves. We provide everything you need in our portable and easily storable tool chest and can do both in-person or remote trainings. Our team is are constantly making new projects and lesson plans, and can’t wait for what’s in store.
Join our woodshop revolution.