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School News: Big Show in Michigan


Woodworking students strut their stuff at the annual MITES Convention and Exhibition. what's keeping public school woodshop programs vibrant these days? In Michigan, the answer is­ MITES, the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society. Established in 1928 by manual arts teachers and now celebrating 80 continuous years of service, MITES is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to supporting students and teachers in industrial arts and technical education programs throughout Michigan and northern Indiana. Currently, more than 600 teachers, administrators, business associates, parents and interested citizens are active members. The Society's mission is to recognize, encourage and promote student achievement in the “applied arts,” as industrial and technical education programs are often called. Applied arts classes, such as woodshop, provide hands-on learning with tools, materials, and processes that result in a finished prototype, project or service. MITES primary goal is to motivate applied arts students to excel—in the classroom, in their personal lives and in their careers. Applied arts classes attract a wide variety of students and are especially helpful for those that could potentially get lost between the cracks in conventional “test driven” school programs. Teaching students how to use tools and materials to complete a project is a pragmatic approach to learning that provides them with real-world applications of math, science and writing concepts. MITES members believe that the process of building a project directly affects academic achievement, because it helps students develop problem-solving skills and understand abstract concepts. Completing a project develops self-esteem and confidence, the basic ingredients to success in any life pursuit.

Awards are presented at five levels at the show, based on age and years of experience. Thoughtful design and good craftsmanship appear at every level.


A Really Big Show
MITES has developed the perfect tool to motivate students and help them to see possibilities beyond the classroom: a huge exhibition. Every spring, over 10,000 applied arts students participate in regional competitions, with the goal of “going to state,” and having their project exhibited at the annual MITES convention. Students compete in woodworking and ten other divisions, including, architectural drawing, mechanical drawing, machine shop, graphic arts, electronics/electrical, plastics, pattern making, wrought metal and applied technology.  Up to 7000 individual projects are displayed at the convention. On-site competitions in residential construction and automotive technology also occur. The woodworking category is always a major part of the show, providing hundreds of impressive pieces—furniture, clocks, decorative turnings, boats, musical instruments—the list goes on and on. Projects are judged using industry standards. Award winners are chosen at five levels, based on age and years of experience in each category. In addition, scholarships from MITES and from corporate sponsors are awarded to graduating seniors and college students who are studying to become shop teachers. The exhibition is a great place for students to get recognition, see the work of other students, talk shop, discover inspiration for future projects, and rub shoulders with educators and industry representatives, to learn about the latest trends and tools.

Conceptual projects stimulate imaginative thinking.  By presenting woodworking's breadth and diversity, the exhibition helps students look beyond the classroom.

Members are Plugged In Effective communication is an essential part of the organization. The MITES website,, journal, and periodic newsletters include discussions about individual programs and teaching strategies, curriculum development and governmental trends in education, as well as timely information about regional events and the annual convention. Scores of MITES volunteers meet bi-monthly to organize and present the regional and state conventions. MITES Plays Politics MITES members are passionate about the value of educating students of all ages through practical hands-on experience. That puts them on the front lines of the battle to save applied arts programs in schools. And for more than twenty years, MITES leaders and members have played an active role, by working to inform legislators and the general public about the growing body of evidence supporting the idea that hands-on learning helps students learn how to think. And they've succeeded! Due to their tireless efforts, industrial technology classes are now included as part of the core curriculum in Michigan's new state graduation requirements. In addition, MITES is partnering with the Michigan Department of Education to develop standards for industrial education. MITES involvement guarantees teachers a voice in the process. MITES is also approved by the state to provide continuing education credits for teachers. As a result, teachers can attend MITES-sponsored classes at the state convention and earn credits toward certification.

Hunting bow projects allow teachers to present techniques such as bent lamination to an entire class, while still allowing students to express their individuality.


For More Information:
Visit or plan to attend MITES 81st annual convention, May 6-9, 2009 in Battle Creek, MI. To see  “MITES?2000” a video that describes MITES, interviews teachers and follows students and their projects from the classroom through the convention, go to

Ron Lutz is a past president of MITES.

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