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Renaissance students build chairs to build confidence

River Falls Academy Renaissance junior Lexus Pickett demonstrates the use of a staple gun. Picket is in a Woodworkers class that works to make and sell Adirondack chair kits. Her job is to assemble pieces made by the other students, using staple gun and other tools.

By the end of the term, teacher Kyle Stapleton hopes he can just sweep the floor and watch as his woodshop students turn raw wood into Adirondack chair kits -- without his help.

“I know it sounds kind of weird, but my goal is to have them not need me anymore,” Stapleton said. “When I get done, I’d like them not to have to ask me questions and just be able to do it on their own.”

Stapleton said some of his students in the Renaissance Woodworkers class at the River Falls Academy alternative charter school have farther to go than others.

“Lots of the students, when they start, are like, ‘I don’t want woods. I’m scared of the machinery,’” Stapleton said. “At the end of the class, the majority of them want to take it again.”

Lexus Pickett, a 16-year-old junior, did not want to be in Stapleton’s woods class at the start of the quarter. But now, around the end of term, she’d like to take the class again.

“This is probably one of my favorite classes, actually,” Pickett said. “Because you’re not just sitting in class listening to a teacher talk at you, you’re actually doing something hands-on, making something.”

The class makes and sells Adirondack chair kits.

Stapleton said the Renaissance Woodworkers used to make completed chairs. But the chairs have gotten so popular, he said the woodworkers haven’t been able to keep up. So this term they’re trying the kits.

“It’s working well,” Stapleton said. “It’s a little bit different than building the whole chair, but the class is definitely doing their best at it.”

The kits are ready-to-assemble and the class created a video showing how to put the chairs together, Stapleton said. It can be seen on the Renaissance Academy website at

For the complete story, please see the Jan. 2, 2014, print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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