The Bright School has been fortunate to have expert craftsmen and woodworkers lead the shop program, which has been integral part of the hands-on curriculum developed by founder Mary G. Bright more than 100 years ago.

Richard Parks, shop teacher since 2014, learned the craft from his father and then turned his hobby into his profession when he left behind teaching math to join the Bright faculty. He also makes exquisite furniture pieces in his spare time, and recently expanded his knowledge through a special weeklong woodworking session in North Carolina. With Windsor chair maker Elia Bizzarri, he learned to make a Windsor chair with just hand tools and hopes to translate that into special projects for students.

“We learned about how and why different woods are used throughout the construction of a Windsor chair such as woods for strength, flexibility, and ease of steam bending. We also learned how to accurately split pieces from a log to shape different parts of a chair,” Parks said.

Parks added lathes to the shop so students could turn objects like pen barrels and rhythm sticks, and now they can use lathes to make chair legs.

“These are techniques kids can do, and they like making projects they see value in,” he said.

The chair also teaches children about different kinds of wood. Most projects are made with wood like pine from the lumber yard, but the chair demonstrates that wood from different trees vary in hardness and flexibility.