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Tyler Fralin, right, and Cyle Flaig work on handmade bows at Linderman in Kalispell. For a video visit GREG LINDSTROM | FLATHEAD BEACON
Learning Through Woodworking
Linderman students create wooden bows while gaining educational and life experiences
By MOLLY PRIDDY of the Beacon
 In just a few minutes, the first-floor science classroom at the Linderman Ed- ucation Center went from silent study sanctuary to a cacophony of woodwork- ing last week, as students traded their notebooks and pens for chisels, saws, and planers to create archery bows.
“Don’t force it,” teacher Jacob Deitz told one student using a mallet to chisel out a handgrip. “This is where you’ve got to be gentle, and take a little of it out at once.”
Deitz largely maintained his dis- tance, letting his students work with the tools to craft beautiful, wooden bows, only stepping in when anyone had a question. This hands-off approach is purposeful, because it allows the kids to make their own mistakes.
Natural consequences are a big part of the reason Deitz teaches the students how to make bows; if a certain design structure fails to hold up under the ten- sion of pulling back the drawstring, the bamboo backing or laminated maple strips might crack.
Such an outcome can be disappointing, said senior Anri Freitag, whose first bow broke under the strain, but it’s also part of the learning process. She was working on her second bow in class last week, and said breaking the first one taught her an important lesson in patience.
“Also, don’t expect things to turn out the way you thought they would,” Fre- itag said.
Deitz, who has been teaching at Lin- derman for four years, said he wanted to find a new lab project for the students to have an opportunity for hands-on learn- ing, and attempted to start up a wood- shop, which didn’t work out.
The bows, however, did.
“I was looking for a big ticket item that kids would be interested in,” Deitz said.
The general culture of hunting in Northwest Montana along with the popularity of the bow-and-arrow shoot- ing heroine-protagonist of “The Hunger Games” drew kids to the bow-making class, he said.
And while the students create their bows, they also learn about the impor- tance of environmental conservation and
Tyler Fralin works on a handmade bow at Linderman in Kalispell. GREG LINDSTROM | FLATHEAD BEACON
have discussions about sportsmanship and hunting practices, such as fair chase. “There’s just something pure about
going out and shooting a bow; it’s just a stick and a string,” Deitz said.
Once the bows are finished, the stu- dents will likely take a field trip to shoot them, and learn about the physics that go into the arrow’s flight from the draw- string.
Seventeen-year-old junior Tyler Fralin said he enjoyed making a bow be- cause it was a work of his own creation, complete with Tiki decorations on the tips. He learned not only from his teach- er, but also from watching other stu- dents have successes or make mistakes.
“I like how we just get to do it, with- out constant instructions,” Fralin said.
With only a few weeks left for some of the students to finish their bows, the work was quick and efficient. Some wore headphones while chiseling, and others measured and perfected the angles on their cuts into the maple and bamboo.
Some of the bows will crack, and oth- ers will successfully shoot arrows into the sky. Most will end up on the stu- dents’ walls, artful commemorations of lessons learned.
“They accomplish something, whether they shoot their bows or not,” Deitz said.

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