The tower at Smoke Farm, midway through its construction by the high-school students of the Sawhorse Revolution.
That tower you see above was built by the high-school students of the Sawhorse Revolution, a newish program teaches teenagers how to use tools and build things. Many of the Sawhorse students don't have access to shops and tools—sometimes because their families can't afford them; sometimes because their schools have cut arts, trades education, and other hands-on types of learning in their mad dash to "teach to the test"; sometimes just because they're girls and if there's a project to do at home, it's always done by the boys.
This summer, I went to Smoke Farm for Fortnight, the Sawhorse Revolution's summer program where a dozen or so students sleep in tents, get up early, build stuff, and forge a sense of community and camaraderie that only work—or some kind of shared ordeal—can provide. The majority of students were girls and the majority were students of color and there was some surprisingly frank (and spontaneous( dinner-table talk about race and gender. Plus lots of goofing around together.
During Fortnight, students also learn about where the materials they're working with come from (basically, rudimentary classes in economics and ecology), the physics of building, and Smoke Farm, the land they're building on. It's a remarkable program and doesn't feel at all like the cheesy, Pollyanna-ish experiences one might associate with the phrase "summer camp."
Sawhorse co-founder Adam Nishimura says they originally resolved not to have any cheesy camp songs or cheers, but they had to concede that battle—the students were chanting and singing, whether the counselors wanted them to or not. One of their favorites this summer, led by a tall and bearded counselor named Micah:
Are we here to have fun?
How do we play?
WAY! TOO! SERIOUSLY!
What do we do?
CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN!
If you want to support the program, Smoke Farm is hosting a Builders Dinner up at the property next Saturday. Tickets are $100 (it's a fundraiser, after all) but that includes dinner by chefs Tamara Murphy (Terra Plata) and Josh Hart (Spinasse), plus beer and wine, tours of the property, and more. Camping is encouraged.
Or, if you just want to donate a few bucks to the cause, you can do that over here. (Full disclosure: I have been involved with some Smoke Farm events, including a lecture series called the Symposium, but I'd never been to Fortnight until this summer.)
More Fortnight/Sawhorse photos are below the jump.