Once upon a time, wood or metal shop was a regular part of a high school’s curriculum. Students learned some basic skills through various projects and whether they knew it or not those experiences added to their development as young adults. Since high school is a time when teens are adjusting to a greater sense of responsibility becoming eager to do things more independently, having that knowledge was a plus. Nevertheless, for various reasons most notably financial difficulties in a lot of districts, these non-academic electives are no longer held and as a result some basic DIY skills are lacking in today’s young generation.
What does it matter if high schoolers know how to use a bandsaw or hold a hammer correctly? It’s not like students would go home and reshingle the southern side of the house or fix all the windows and doors so drafts won’t enter but having those opportunities were positive developments that could possibly open future doors.
That said, bringing these or similar electives back is a must, but schools are financially strapped and even if parents are willing to pick up part of the tab, the costs sometimes outweigh the desire. That’s where the internet comes in. Students with interests in learning various DIY skills can use the web to meet their needs—either in groups, or individually. It may not be the shop of years past but can still be a meaningful experience for everyone involved. Consider the following:
1. After school groups
Students could form a Student DIY Society and meet for a series of extra-curricular activities after school. The society would vote on researching a number of beginner level DIY issues such as how to use hand tools correctly, when to use certain types of machines, or finding solutions to common home-related issues such as how to repair a leaky sink.
All the information can be researched online and brought before the group. This includes watching videos, contacting owners of certain sites who developed step by step solutions to problems, and training each other on the various ins and outs of certain situations.
As an added benefit the group could seek out several local handymen who, as a public service, could take the time to meet with students to talk about how they got started and how they are influenced today by the many home improvement websites at their disposal.
2. Independent study for credit
Schools could allow students to create their own independent studies based on a particular area of home improvement such as carpentry, plumbing, or landscaping. After choosing a subject, students would use the internet to research a particular topic and report on it. A local carpenter, plumber, or landscaper could be brought in to help guide the student through the process.
In order to receive credit for the independent study, schools could set up and maintain a website or blog where students document all the information including any step by step how-tos they picked up along the way.
3. Holding a competition
A third option is for schools to hold a DIY home improvement competition wherein one or two topics are chosen and interested students would be challenged with an issue. The challenge could be as basic as how to fix a crack in cement, to something like energy efficiency and how to make better use of utilities.
Students would research and familiarize themselves with the topics online and prepare for answering a number of questions. Parents could even get involved, and a home improvement-related prize could be awarded.
The bottom line: When extracurricular activities featuring basic DIY skills are unavailable, innovative ways to expose high school students to these skills can be found through using the internet. The importance of such skills should not be minimized because they are forever applicable, and whether it’s tomorrow or in ten years, they will be beneficial.