Bringing Back Woodshop at Bloomingdale Middle & High School

Published on Sunday, June 30, 2024 in Strengthening Schools Grants

Kids are learning to work with their hands in Bloomingdale Middle and High School’s new Maker Space woodshop class.student working

The program is designed to give students a practical learning opportunity outside the traditional classroom experience, using equipment funded in part by a Strengthening Schools Grant from MEC. Strengthening Schools is made possible by partnership dollars from our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative.

matt swier and student“My desire is to show kids that, ‘Hey, I can build something with this tool,’” says Maker Space Teacher Matt Swier.

Bloomingdale school leaders transformed a former computer lab and library into a woodshop area and approached Swier to teach a project-based class.

It was important to Swier to be able to teach them skills they could apply in their everyday lives—such as household maintenance—in addition to preparing them for success later in life should they pursue a career in the trades.

There was also the matter of getting students interested in the course. Swier noticed that YouTube and TikTok content creators who did woodworking called themselves “makers.” He adopted this term, naming the class Maker Space to signal that it would offer a modern woodshop experience.

student paintingIn the class, students learn to use various tools—including a laser etcher, a CNC machine, and even a small arc welder— to complete all kinds of projects, from restoring a teacher’s dinner table to creating storage shelves out of the wood from the school’s old stadium bleachers. Several of these projects have been sold to the public, with the sales dollars being funneled back into more materials and equipment for the class.

Even with those funds, woodshop equipment is expensive, and Swier had to seek out additional funding to give students the best possible experience. While searching for potential grants, he came across MEC’s Strengthening Schools program. He was awarded funding and used the money to group projectpurchase a drum sander and a silent air compressor.

Swier says hands-on classes like his open doors after high school that students might not otherwise be aware of, and they encourage participation from students who may be less invested in a traditional classroom environment.

“Kids who don’t pay attention in other classes love this one because they can express themselves creatively,” Swier says. “The coolest part of my job is seeing the kids light up with smiles because they built something.”boat project

We’re accepting applications for Strengthening Schools Grants! Teachers, administrators, and school officials at public elementary, middle, or high schools serving students in our electric service territories are eligible.

Visit for full details and to apply by Oct. 14.