January 19, 2024

WCA student woodworking project to be displayed at Beacon Pizza

By Ed Pierce

Students at Windham Christian Academy are learning that projects they work on in wood shop at the school are useful in real-world problem solving, collaboration, building confidence, and creativity. One such project is now hanging in a popular local restaurant to be admired for years to come.

Windham Christian Academy students built a ukelele and
painted a Maine lighthouse scene during a school
woodworking project that was donated to Beacon  Pizza
in Raymond. From left are WCA wood shop teacher Bob
Berry, Beacon Pizza owners Robert and Pamela Wing,
WCA sophomore Eva Schroeder and WCA senior
Ella Johnson. The ukelele will be permanently displayed
at the restaurant. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Bob Berry teaches wood shop at Windham Christian Academy and says his students have been working for the past months on projects using natural materials to construct objects while safely using woodworking tools. When an idea for a new project was proposed of creating a ukelele, two students thought they could contribute significantly and with Berry’s assistance they could build the musical instrument from scratch.

“I’ve had Ella Johnson in my class for four years now and she’s very talented,” Berry said. “I saw some of the art and objects hanging on the wall at Beacon Pizza in Raymond and thought that we could work on something with the students and donate it to them.”

The interior walls of Beacon Pizza contain donated paintings and artwork with Maine themes and a mounted electric guitar that a patron made for the restaurant. Berry says seeing what others have done inspired him to have his students do something to donate too.

He pitched the idea of constructing a ukelele mounted on a Maine-related landscape scene to Johnson and she agreed it would make a great project to work on in the school’s wood shop.

Berry searched online and found plans as to how to build a ukelele and Johnson, a senior, thought of adding it to a wood surface with the restaurant’s logo and a depiction of the Portland Head Light lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth.

The project was different from many of the others that WCA students had worked on previously, such as building boats made of strip wood, and enthusiasm among students was high for the new activity as the ukelele project began to take shape.

“First we had to have a solid design before we could do anything else,” Berry said. “During that process, Ella discovered that her original drawings required additional help.”

That’s when Eva Schroeder, a sophomore, stepped in to collaborate on the project.

“Eva’s a wonderful artist and she helped Ella by sketching the objects out in pencil for the wood surface portion,” Berry said. “We had to keep everyone focused but everything was very consistent, and they were both excited to be a part of this special project.”

Then using materials donated to the school’s wood shop by Sabre Yachts of Raymond, construction of the project started under Berry’s direction.

It took about a month from start to finish to build the ukelele. While that was going on, final design and the pencil sketches were prepared by Schroeder and Johnson for the wood surface base, and everything was coming together quickly for the project.

The final part of the student work was the detailed painting applied to the wood surface of the base by Johnson.

“When it was all done, everyone at the school just marveled at what a wonderful job these two students had done with this,” Berry said. “It’s really amazing.”

On Jan. 12, Schroeder, Johnson, and Berry presented the ukelele and artwork to Beacon Pizza owners Robert and Pamela Wing at the restaurant.

“Those kids are really talented,” Robert Wing said. “We even found some bowling pins in the drawing which was very special to us as my wife started making pizzas with her mother when they operated the bowling alley in Raymond years ago. This will be something that we will remember for a long time.” <

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