CASPER, Wyo. — Struggling to spray paint their folding stools and not their fellow students, a lively bunch of Boys and Girls Clubs kids buzzed around the wood shop during a field trip to Pathways Innovation Center.
Their enthusiasm was outwardly apparent on Thursday, June 20, except perhaps when they stood mesmerized around a large laser engraver in the wood shop.
The machine was cutting a Wyoming Technical Education Association logo into the seat boards of wooden stools the kids were assembling, since WTEA teachers from around Wyoming were tasked with assisting the students.
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“Some have never seen a screwdriver or a wrench,” Dean Morgan Middle School drafting and wood shop instructor Joseph Martinez said.
But some of the kids said they’ve done some woodwork before.
“We help out our dad,” a sister said of herself and her brother.
The siblings added that they were having a lot of fun and thought the experience would allow them to be a bigger help for their father on projects around their home.
“I like building,” the brother added while spray painting his stool blue and green. “I’m making it like the sky is blue and the grass is green.”
Martinez said the purpose of the day was to “expose young kids to career and technical education.”
Natrona County High School Assistant Principal Lucas Dow said, “I never really liked sitting in a desk when I was in school. Some of these kids are like that.”
“A lot of things they’re not good at in school, but you put them in this and they’re the best students.”
Dow said that high school students who complete three levels of any type of career and technical education courses have a 98% graduation rate.
“I want to get kids involved,” Dow said, especially since he might run into these kids again once they reach high school.
Martinez was right about some students having minimal exposure to wood work.
“This is my first time actually,” one boy said. “See these holes? I’m trying to get it to fit.”
He was hesitant to sit on his stool because “I don’t want to get it broken on the first day.”
Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming Social Recreation Coordinator Daniel Uptain said that Tuesday’s outing was just one of many field trips the kids have the chance to go on over the summer.
He said that another group was up on Muddy Mountain and other trips to local kitchens, bakeries, cinemas, the sanitation plant, the dump and the library are planned.
“They’ve been really excited about this,” Uptain said of the wood shop field trip. “When they build something, it builds their self-confidence.”
The kids had different plans for what they’d do with their stools when they take them home. Two girls were contemplating giving them to family members as birthday presents.
Others talked about taking the stools with them when they go camping.
“I love my stool,” the above-mentioned sister said. “I’m going to put it in my room to step on my bed instead of having to dive in it.”
Her brother said he thought it would be a good way to reach snacks, but this wasn’t his only idea.
“I’m going to let my cat sleep on it,” he added.
“We’re new to the Boys and Girl Club so we like it,” his sister said. “I like the field trips.”
Another girl said the most difficult part of making the stool was applying the glue because it “was really liquid-y.”
A girl standing beside her said she’d chosen bright colors for her stool to “really make it pop.”
Pathways auto instructor Troy Corson took some of the kids on a tour of the building once they’d finished their stools. He showed them a house that Pathways construction students are building.
“Those guys are like you guys that built that cabin,” he said.
Other students were lined up at a “Rockin’ Burgers N’ Dogs” food trailer to grab a bite to eat.
University of Wyoming at Casper College technical education instructor Rod Thompson said it wasn’t only the kids who were enjoying the day.
“I think the teachers have as much fun as the kids,” he said. “It’s just fun watching their eyes light up at something they’ve made.”
Martinez and Thompson said that companies such as Bloedorn Lumber and Woodworker’s Supply had donated materials for the project.
According to Martinez, the WTEA organizes such lessons for students every other year during Wyoming Association for Career and Technical Education conferences, which happened to be at Pathways this year.