Building blocks

LISBON, Ohio – First, John Garwood’s students pored over the bluebird box blueprints, all those numbers and directions.
They ticked off measurements on the wood, made the smooth cuts, aligned the pieces, drilled screws into the sides, and painted the birdhouses vibrant yellows, whites, greens and reds. When they were finished, they guided another class through the same steps.
Twenty-four bluebird boxes later, they invited naturalist Todd Metz to their classroom at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center and donated their projects to several Ohio parks.
Although the boxes will be safe havens for countless baby bluebirds, the students are the ones who really benefited from the project.
It was never just about learning to measure, saw, drill and build, Garwood said. It was about learning teamwork, learning to follow directions, learning to stay on task, learning to be accountable, learning to stick with something until completion.
These are real-world skills. Employability, he calls it. Everything these students learn during projects like this prepares them for jobs “on the outside,” Garwood said, and that’s his goal as instructor of the Work Force Readiness program.
Garwood’s in his second year and so is the program. He had three years to get the program up and running and “in the black.”
So far, he’s right on track.
One of his students’ most successful business ventures was getting donations to put a milk vending machine in the school. They’re responsible for checking inventory, placing orders, counting the money and making deposits.
The students also started a recycling project. When profits from the cardboard, paper, newspaper, ink cartridges and soda cans are high enough, they plan to buy an industrial compact baler. Then they hope to have community recycling days where everyone can bring their trash.
Each project is different, from building rabbit hutches to making Christmas gifts, but the theme is the same, Garwood said: helping themselves, helping each other, building their skills, building their future.

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