How I Teach Bird Carving Classes for Youth
by Vic Kirkman
1) I teach the ages 11-16 on Saturday mornings November 1st through June 1st
each year and I do this free. The class is from 9:30 am to 11:30 am (2hrs.)
Other things I consider are as follows:
a) Kids are too busy with summer sports, camps, family vacations and activities during the summer months to attend class regularly.
b) During their school year the classes give them a break from formal school work and a hobby that is a bit different than what most kids have.
c) All my youth students love to take their carvings to school to show and tell their progress.
d) Several of my youth students are home-schooled and parents can use the classes for part of their instruction program. I give them lessons about the woods they use and the history of wildfowl carving as well as research on the birds they are carving and on birds and bird life in general.
2) I prefer the age group 11-16 for starting out because I have found that when they become 16, their interests develop more along the lines of driver's licenses and romantic endeavors. They also like to sleep very late on Saturday mornings. Even though a kid may lose his interest at age 16 or 17, I believe that later in life they will come back to the craft. This is what happened to me, as I started carving in Scouting and even though life took me away for many, many years, I was drawn back to woodcarving when I decided I needed a serious hobby.
3) For youth over 16, I offer them a spot in my adult classes year round if they wish. Here they get the benefit of new role models in carving and learn from more advanced carvers. Several have taken me up on this offer. You may choose to charge a fee for this or not, but because they take up space in my adult class I do charge a minimal fee. The parents are more than happy to provide this. My Saturday morning classes for them still remains free. I also give them a chance to earn money by doing yard work. They and their parents love this, since gas money is needed for their new form of transportation.
4) Most of my students come via word-of-mouth, but I do advertise the youth classes along with any advertising I may do for adult students such as on my website, brochures, exhibits, ads, etc. I do not try to teach more that 8 kids at one time. You will have to decide how many you can work most effectively with.
5) I give hands-on instruction for the kids as needed with certain aspects of a project, but keep it to a minimum so the youth can do most of the carving, have pride in his/her work and build a good self image. Kids over age 16 are taught more like the adult novice so as it to be proper for them competing at the adult level if they wish.
6) I try to let the student carve which species they want to carve. The degree of detail we put on the carving may vary depending on how I see the skills of each individual develop through the process of working with the first project. I never force a kid to carve a bird he does not like. I do require them to reseach the bird thoroughly and tell the other students about it.
7) I only use power tools to introduce young carvers to bird carving. The reason I do this is really for safety reasons. The power carver bit can only remove a little skin, but a sharp tupelo knife can sever a tendon to cause permanent damage and disability. Accidents will happen, so I try to reduce the danger possible with them. The flex shaft Dremel or the WEcheer engraver are two inexpensive and low speed tools a youth can start with. I teach and supervise closely, safe operation of these machines. Later they can get the more advanced, high speed micromotor tool.
8) I provide all of these tools for kids to learn with and reccommend they get the least expensive ones for home practice until they develop their skills. I give them used tools when I have them and many bits and accessories. I also provide the wood and supplies they will need. I provide eye protection, aprons and dust masks, insisting they use them when carving. "No glasses, no classes".
9) We have some unrelated fun in every class. We have an ongoing supervised dart throwing contest at the end of each class period. We accumulate the scores for each month and award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. Usually prizes are something that they need in their carving pursuits. I also offer soft drinks, bottled water and roasted peanuts for them.
10) Some of my adult students and I provide transportation for the youth when needed, to educational events and competitions. Field trips are also taken to museums, exhibits and aviaries.
11) We help with fees, subscriptions and memberships for the youth whenever needed. Most of the time, the parents really get involved when they find out how excited the youth becomes over his new found skills.
12) I do not require competition for the youth students but I do encourage it. Competing offers a special learning opportunity and self-worth building experience.
They also get to see the practice of good sportsmanship among carvers and the global popularity of this wonderful art form.