Joshua DeHaan picked up a toy car and felt its smooth contours with satisfaction. “It feels good to go from a piece of wood to something like this,” he said.
The Northview High School senior put it back in a box of three dozen other brightly colored cars that began as discarded 2-by-4s. Working after school in a woodworking club, Joshua and fellow senior Nicholas Robinson patiently cut, sanded, drilled, glued and painted them into nifty vehicles suitable for a 5-year-old to scoot across the floor.
Once Nicholas finished off another dozen, the students plan to deliver 50 cars to the young patients of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Besides providing children with cool toys, the project also fulfilled a service-learning requirement for their English 12 class.
They got the idea from teacher Jeff Vargo’s Woods I class, whose students made about 200 mini cars and gave them to Toys for Tots. For Shelli Caswell’s English class, Joshua and Nicholas put their love of woodworking to charitable use.
“I don’t really like book-learning,” Nicholas said. “I’d rather work with my hands.”
Nicholas studies computer-aided machining at Kent Career Tech Center, while Joshua works at a tool and die business where he’ll have a full-time job upon graduating. “It’s a good job to get into because it’s always going to stay busy,” Joshua said.
Vargo says his classes tie into academic subjects such as economics. His advanced woodworking students form assembly lines to build chairs. “They read about it in their history classes, but in Woods 2 they’re like, ‘Hey, this is how they make cars!'”