For more years than he can count, Gill parents have been asking Robert "Bob" Ort '89 to teach a class for adults. Recently, he thought, "What if I could teach something fun and creative to adults during the coldest time of the year?" With the hopes of energizing people during the "dull, gray days of winter," Bob decided to offer an evening Adult Woodworking class from January 8 to February 26, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Once advertised, it quickly filled with 12 class members.
Now into the third session, participants enthusiastically arrive early and leave late. They find their tools, their work benches, and each other. There is an energetic vibe in the wood shop among the students as Bob pauses the group to give a "mini lesson" on understanding the materials and design of a dovetail box and the importance of staying organized during the construction. "I've done this a thousand times, and I still have to think it through and write it down," he notes.
While ostensibly they are there to learn how to make a handcrafted one-of-a-kind box from cherry, mahogany, or other wood materials, and how to use an assortment of tools and equipment, there is something more about the class that is compelling — the people. When asking a college-age participant why she is taking the class, she remarked, "I attended Gill from prekindergarten to seventh grade, and my biggest regret leaving was that I didn’t get to continue woodworking classes." Now she is back taking the class with her dad, along with five nearby residents, three GSB alums, two faculty members, and even a magnificent guide dog.
For Bob this is nothing short of a capstone experience recognizing that, "Having been a Gill student first, and a then teacher here for 23 years, the opportunity to share with parents, fellow alums, colleagues, and new friends the culmination of years of study and practice in a field that is my life’s work — it is simply wonderful!"
Stepping back to observe his students, he witnesses a pervasive sense of calm in their collaboration and camaraderie as they design, draw, saw, hammer, and glue. It's as if time is stands still and smiles upon this gentle group of eager learners in their mindful discovery of "something fun and creative during the coldest time of year."
Pleased with the success of the evening class, Head of School Sid Rowell hopes to expand adult class opportunities at Gill. Fortunately, Bob is already planning to offer his class again next year.