• Hunter Cresswell

Getting crafty at St.Mike’s

St. Mike’s carpentry students aren’t just building bird feeders and toolboxes, they’re building the foundation of their futures.


Thanks to a partnership between the school’s woodworking program and the Mustang Saddlery down the road, students are learning to build things out of wood with their own hands while understanding the ins and outs of business. The saddlery has sold student-built bird feeders and tool boxes with proceeds going back to the school’s carpentry program.


“It’s the kids from start to finish,” St. Michael’s High School Principal Debbie Piccard said. “It’s teaching them so many life skills.”

Mustang Saddlery owner Brenda Morrison partnered with the St. Michael’s High School carpentry program in fall 2021 to sell bird feeders. She currently sells student-built toolboxes. Hunter Cresswell photo

The carpentry program has been a mainstay at the Low high school for years, but the partnership began in fall 2021 when Mustang Saddlery owner Brenda Morrison sought local crafts to sell to Christmas shoppers.


“Since COVID kicked in, I’ve been selling bird seed like crazy,” she said adding that she turned to local social media pages looking for local crafters and artisans who make bird feeders that could hold all the seed she was selling.


The parent of a St. Mike’s student suggested the idea of partnering with the high school’s carpentry class so Morrison emailed carpentry teacher Magnus Eriksson.


“[Morrison and I] work with students and then we came up with a [bird feeder] template,” Eriksson said.


This program goes beyond the boundaries of woodworking, he said. Students learn what sells and what doesn’t, and what price to set depending on the materials and time put in.


Eriksson said that students came up with a design that Morrison approved and then built a template bird feeder that is easy to replicate. At five birdhouses per week, the carpentry students have since built and delivered 20 feeders to Morrison’s store for display and sale by Christmas.


They sold out “quickly,” she said.


“The community connects to it,” Eriksson said about the partnership.

Morrison worked for the Western Quebec School Board for 18 years before opening her Low store about 13 years ago. Her two sons, who are in their late-20s now, attended St. Mike’s.


“I like working with kids. I miss it,” Morrison said.


On display in Morrison’s store on Feb. 11 were St. Mike’s student-built toolboxes on a shelf marked with the school’s large logo.


Morrison said that after the success of the bird feeders, she wanted to keep the partnership with the school and students going so they’ve begun selling old-fashioned wooden toolboxes while the students work on their next project, bat houses.


Eriksson said that researching how to build bat boxes has expanded his usual woodworking curriculum to include a bit of biology. The boxes require grooves on the inside for bats to cling to as they roost and the insides should be a dark colour for the bats to sleep in during the day.


Wakefield resident and St. Mike’s tenth grader Hayden Ward is in his third year of Eriksson’s carpentry class. He said that carpentry is his favourite class and he didn’t know anything about bats before this project.


“I like when this class is full of students and everyone is working,” Ward said.

Eriksson said that Ward and fellow tenth grader Dawson Wiseman are the driving force behind the partnership.


The bird feeders alone raised $500 for the carpentry classroom, which goes a long way, Eriksson said.


“Just think of the material needed,” he said about the hardware and tools needed to build student projects. “That’s what eats up the little money we get in the budget from the school board.”


Eriksson said that he doesn’t even buy wood for the classroom. He said that all wood his class uses is donated by Atlas Lumber in Low, parents, or other workshops.

“We depend on our donations,” Eriksson said.


There are still a few toolboxes for sale in Mustang Saddlery for $30. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To donate wood to the school’s woodworking program email stmichaels@wqsb.qc.ca.