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With hands-on learning and career education at the core of its purpose, the staff and students at the River Falls Renaissance Academy have made the decision to incorporate those aspects into a formidable but very doable project.

They've taken the steps to establish a sustainable micro-business within the charter school.

When it becomes official, after all necessary paperwork is completed and approved, the new venture will be called Renaissance Academy Woodworking.

Its purpose? To foster leadership, to enhance teamwork, to learn the skills of woodworking, to develop marketing knowledge, and to make a profit. Students will work together and build Adirondack-style furniture, then sell it with all business profits going towards the purchase of educational materials needed for the school.

Although Renaissance Academy Director Linda Berg came up with idea to create the business, Kyle Stapleton teaches the classes that go along with its development. He is the academy's technology education teacher, and has taught at the academy for three years.

Stapleton said the students benefit from this venture.

"(It) gives them a feeling of pride and ownership," he noted. "It also gives them something to look forward to at the end of a long school day."

Crafting the Adirondack pieces is a good project, Stapleton reasoned.

"Our shop is not set up for fine furniture making, but it is a great shop for kids to learn in and make very nice outdoor furniture."

Stapleton said, as a teacher, his favorite part of teaching the woodworking class is, "Seeing the kids take control of the project and being proud of it when it is completed."

That furniture comes in three sizes: Full size Adirondack chairs for adults; 3/4 size for youth and 1/2 size for young children. All pieces are made of solid unfinished pine and vary in thickness according to size.

Stapleton listed the major topics that are taught as part of the woodworking project:

  • Buying lumber, learning about sizes and grades
  • The real costs of building products and cost estimation of products. How much lumber is usable; how much is considered waste.
  • Hardware involved such as nuts, bolts, washers, screws.
  • Miscellaneous items like glue.
  • Operating expenses like heat and electricity.
  • Safe use of all tools. Some of equipment students have worked with include: Table saw, chop saw, band saw, joiner, sander, plainer, drills, nail guns and more.
  • Attention to detail.

    Persons who want more of a look at the project and to learn the cost of the furniture can go to the class' website: Order forms are available on the website for persons interested in buying any of the woodworking pieces.

    Students will also sell the furniture at the River Falls High School's FBLA chapter's craft show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 21.

    Financial support is welcome, says Stapleton.

    "We are being sponsored by Lund's Do It Best Hardware Store," he said, "and are always looking for more support."

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