Young Construction Apprentice Club

Students at Hembree Springs Elementary School pose with their “teeny tiny house.”

The local volunteer-lead organization, Toolbox, works with Roswell elementary school students to give them construction skills and confidence to carry with them after school.

Toolbox's program, the Young Apprentice Construction Club, began at Mimosa Elementary School, but is now at all six elementary schools in Roswell that feed into Roswell High School. Toolbox is completely volunteer run, with around 36 volunteers spread out through the elementary schools.

Toolbox and its volunteers want to expand outside the Roswell cluster and Fulton County wants to see the Young Apprentice Construction Club in as many schools as possible.

Before Toolbox brings the club to a school, volunteers identify schools that feed into high schools with construction programs.

"We don't want to build programs that lead kids nowhere," founding volunteer J Prothero said. "We don't want to teach them in elementary and then there's nothing to do in high school."

The programs introduce students to construction and focuses on basic woodworking skills. Students are taught safety and how to correctly use power and hand tools. Within the classroom, there is an instructor with two or three other volunteers who oversee safety and quality control. 

The kids do every bit of their measuring, drilling, cutting and assembly, but the volunteers are there to oversee safety and quality control. Students are not allowed to drill holes until their project buddy and a volunteer inspects their work.

"If that measurement is not precise — there is zero tolerance for an off measurement — it's rejected and the student has to go back and remeasure," Prothero explained. 

The program lasts for the entire school year and is only open to fifth grade students. During the first semester, students build their own toolboxes and during the second semester, build a "teeny tiny house" of five walls and five trusses. 

"We want kids to know they can do things perfectly right if they are given the right tools an curriculum," Prothero said. 

When Toolbox brings its club to a school, the organization provides all the tools and materials needed. Toolbox gets its funds from the membership of Associated General Contractors of Georgia. Lummus Supply Co. also provides wood during the first semester's project and Home Depot sends over staff to volunteer at the program. 

Toolbox is working on establishing a professional curriculum through Georgia, but for now concentrates of following the construction directions for each project. Prothero says they teach students to read, process and then execute the directions and to take their time. 

"[Students] discover who they are, and they discover that by an introduction to working with tools and their hands and building things," Prothero said. "It lets them have a choice and right now public school too often has two choices — college or work."

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