Nicholas Cole-Farrell, Director of Technology
The Process is the Inspiration
by Nicholas Cole-Farrell, Director of Technology
“The school gives students agency in their learning by allowing them to design their own meaningful projects and curious pathways through learning.”
-Brandeis 2023: Vision
Readers of Hashavua would not be at fault for identifying my work in the Brandeis community as being exclusive to the realm of technology (save the occasional Hashavua food column
). But complimentary to that work, this Hashavua columnist has the distinct joy of teaching the Furniture Design and Making elective in our BUILD space
, the professionally equipped woodworking shop and makerspace adjacent to the Beit Midrash.
Running twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this semester’s elective features eight students from the Class of 2023, each coming to us with their own level of woodworking experience. After beginning the year with extensive safety training in our space over several class sessions, FD+M elective students learned the basics of measuring, marking, cutting, joining, sanding, and finishing wood through a handful of one-day builds- a coaster set, a board game, a table. Once our friends secured their foundational skills, they took a strong turn away from the prescriptive kit building approach, towards our first major project- the one-board challenge- a student designed and executed creative build that follows the student voice and agency from start to finish.
In this design challenge, students submit a project proposal that must be signed off on before they have access to tools and materials. Meant to not only get them thinking measurements and techniques, the proposal is designed to go down deeper- to interrogate and reflect on the process of making itself. Students are asked ‘What purpose will it serve/Who are you building it for?’ and ‘How will you know when your project is done?’
Beyond the age-old woodworking adage of ‘measure twice, cut once’, this ethical pause, as we call it in our work of ethical creativity
, allows Brandeis makers to discover meaning in the small moments, and not just in the outcome or the final product.
By designing their own meaningful projects and following the curious pathways of their own process, our students are building their world, and bettering the world around them.