Sisters student Travis Templar showing off his finished snowboard to peer, Timber Bionda.

Sisters High School’s Unique Creations

Students at Sisters High School have the opportunity to learn woodworking and life skills through unorthodox, yet rewarding projects.

Hidden away in the art hallway of Sisters High School lies the woodworking classroom, a sizable space filled with busy students, plenty of sawdust and remarkable creations. Sisters High School is known for its unique programs, but this hands-on Manufacturing Technology class takes lessons to a whole new level. 

Jason Chinchen is at the helm of these hands-on woodworking activities, having taught at Sisters High School for three years; his goal is to prepare his students for life with imaginative, technological and software skills. Chinchen has been leading his classes with admirable care and thought, cultivating a hands-on learning environment where students have the opportunity to learn new skills to apply to their future endeavors.

“What I took over was already created, but I try my best to bring in new tech and software, such as our CNC Wood Carving Machine, to better prepare students for working in the real world,” says Chinchen.  

Although most high schools have a woodshop class, the Sisters School District offers a wide selection of classes, including Woods I, Woods II, Intro to Engineering, Manufacturing Technology and Luthier classes to students.

The Luthier Program has garnered previous media attention and even a visit from Governor Kate Brown in 2016. This class teaches students how to create their own guitars, even offering the chance to learn how to play folk-music through the SHS Americana Program. Students in the Manufacturing Technology class, however, learn about modern methods of industrial production, graphics, and equipment operation. They gain these skills by getting the chance to create a pair of skis or a snowboard.

“When they’re finished a lot of students end up using them on the mountain…They run great and I love seeing them up there having fun,” Chinchen said.

“I took this class to be able to personalize my snowboard. And it’s nice because the work you put into the board reflects the product you get,” says junior Holly Madron. 

Holly Madron working on her skis.

Students taking the class must have taken Woods I and Intro to Engineering as prerequisites. Crafting such a specific type of product takes concentration and skill; many students make mistakes throughout their journey which derail their projects. Nevertheless, pushing through these obstacles is what many artisans find joy in, making their final product that much more satisfying to achieve.

“The hardest part is to make such perfect stuff. But when you mess up you just have to work it out,” said senior Timber Bionda.

The process takes an entire trimester, 12 weeks, to complete, and even then many students do not finish completely. However, with the help of their teacher, and a dozen community volunteers, all students do eventually finish with a feeling of satisfaction at a job well done.

“Watching them get to take the top sheet off their finish is great, the growth in their ability over the term makes me really proud,” remarked Chinchen.

Upon completing the class, students leave the classroom with a sense of pride in their accomplishments. They recognize the privilege bestowed upon them to participate in the class. This instruction not only teaches them how to create their projects, but also offers them the opportunity to use their skis and snowboards outside of the classroom, forging new connections and generating enjoyable memories.