LAKEVIEW — Say the words “shop class” and certain images come to mind, not all of them flattering — kids gluing inexpertly-cut bits of wood together to form end tables of questionable stability or uninspired students counting the minutes until the 3 p.m. bell.
There’s an altogether different picture being painted in Dave Albert’s woodworking shop at Lakeview High School, however.
On any given afternoon, the hum and rattle of industry fill the cavernous work room as engaged, enthusiastic students create projects not only for themselves but for the community at large.
At the moment, Albert’s students are building several permanent displays for a children’s museum currently under development in Belding. Once completed, the interactive displays will be donated to the museum for free.
Community service is just one of the many life lessons Albert imparts to his charges in addition to the rules pertaining to stray thumbs and rip saws. Albert’s “draft and build” class is constructing the museum donations, mostly with donated materials or materials purchased by the class itself.
According to senior Josh Eichenberg, the project represents a chance not only to learn the finer points of woodworking, but also gives kids an opportunity to give something back to the community.
“(Our group) is building a pulley system,” Eichenberg said. “It’s for the children’s museum in Belding and will take two or three weeks to complete. It’ll be in four separate pieces to fit through the door.”
Other interactive displays being built by the class include an X-ray box that allows students to view the skeletons of various animals, a Lincoln Log table and matching play-set and a game that helps children match animal pelts with their original owners.
Tom Fagerlin, whose wife will curate the Belding museum once it is completed, said the project could never see fruition without the assistance of many volunteers providing materials and labor at no cost.
“Without all their help it would be a year before we could even hope to open,” Fagerlin said. “There are a lot of unsung heroes at work here, such as Dave’s class here.”
Projects like the museum displays don’t come cheaply, however. Albert is the first to admit that coming up with funding for this and other community projects sometimes requires a little creative thinking. That’s where his mass production class enters the picture. If the draft and build class usually gets the glory, it is the mass production class that covers the expenses.
One local company — which wished to remain anonymous — donated $10,000 worth of materials to Albert’s class. Another local company donated an employee and a truck and trailer to assist in picking up the donated materials.
Each semester, Albert’s mass production class designs and creates its own unique product. “Lakeview Logs” (similar to Lincoln Logs) was the product one year. Another semester decided on folding lawn chairs. This semester’s product is folding TV trays. Once built, the students market and sell the products throughout the community. Money raised from the sale helps fund community projects like the children’s museum displays as well as purchase new equipment and materials for the wood shop.
“Without the mass production class, we wouldn’t be able to allow students to build things like mahogany gun cases and similar projects for only $10 each,” Albert said. “We have really great kids. We couldn’t build all these things for the community without these selfless kids’ willingness to work so hard.”