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St. Helens High woodworking program leaves lasting impression

Two-year project to build shelter for playground equipment draws to a close

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Students in the independent carpentry class at St. Helens High School use a nail gun to secure the rafters of a structure before placing the roofing on top. Students in the class have been working  for two years to complete a structure that will cover a small playground on campus for the Cub's Corner Childcare center.At St. Helens High School, students in the wood shop independent carpentry class used their time to give back to the school by building a shelter to cover the school's day care program playground equipment.

A handful of students in the school's independent carpentry class built a wooden structure to cover the outdoor play equipment for the Cub's Corner Childcare program. The high school campus program is supervised by St. Helens human development instructor, Martine Barnett.

The two-year construction project began in fall of the 2014-15 school year, with only two students in a class taught by Joe Mauck, the high school's woodshop instructor.

Corey Wilkendorf, now a graduated senior, said working on the project taught him a lot about teamwork and learning to trust others in a group setting. Wilkendorf said that when he started on the project last year, he liked to work independently, but has since learned to work with others and how to supervise and assist, rather than doing it all alone.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Ben Eldred, a junior, uses a nail gun to secure the rooftop framing of the playground cover. Students in the class alternated tasks during the construction process. What began as a slow-going project with few participants has, ironically, taken more time to complete as more students became involved. With two different independent carpentry classes being offered at different times of the day, the construction of the playground shelter hit a few communication snags along the way, students said. Many, however, said the setbacks taught them valuable lessons about teamwork and perseverance.

“It's nice to see, after all this hard work, how it's turned out,” Caden Denkins, now a St. Helens High graduate, said.

Working on a project that benefits the St. Helens school community instilled a sense of accomplishment, several students said. For incoming seniors and the recent graduates, completing the project also gave them the opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

“It's been nice to give back to the school,” Denkins said. “It's nice to leave our mark on the school.”

Students who take the independent carpentry class must complete woodworking and building construction as prerequisite courses. However, with the skills taught in those classes under their belts, the students have the skills to embark on more complex builds, like the playground structure, and more freedom to work on various projects beyond introductory woodworking projects.

Many of the supplies for the project were donated or paid for by grants, Mauck said, including a grant from Cub's Corner Childcare, run by Barnett.

One student in Barnett's childhood and human development classes also held a fundraiser and collected $500 to help pay for bolts and hardware. Other donors included Lower Columbia Engineering, Convoy Supply and Simpson Tie Company.