American author and philanthropist Mitch Albom once said “Devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” A group of Amery Middle School students, led by instructor Allen Carlson, have been doing just that.

Carlson started a class named “CREATE” at the school three years ago. Projects have varied throughout the years, but this year the students were able to work on things that benefited others in the community as well classmates their school. Along the way they learned a variety of skills that went above and beyond pounding nails into wood.

One of Carlson’s classes tackled a sign design and production for a community member living at Eagle Crest Cove. “Students created and communicated multiple solutions for the project. They practiced appropriate problem-solving approaches and critical thinking skills to on the job tasks and issues by providing proofs and meeting with the client on several occasions during the process. They engaged in communicating their ideas, concepts and requirements among the team members as they designed the project. They demonstrated a high level of professionalism each time they met with the client,” said Carlson. The team researched material to make the sign and how to finish the sign to make it appropriate for outdoor use. The students learned about CNC tooling and were able to identify which were needed to complete the project.

Another project had students constructing a total of 18 picnic tables and 23 park benches. The first class produced product for the Amery Dog Park. Gregg Rochester, Chairman of Amery’s Dog Park Steering Committee, said, “Allen and his student crew have provided an invaluable service to the community through their work creating benches and tables for our new dog park. The coordination of our efforts with Lambert’s and EBC Arrow with Allen’s expert advice has been more than a pleasant experience for all involved. The students have done professional quality work. Our dog park users will enjoy comfortable places to sit and watch their dogs socialize and play!”

After the success of building items for the dog park, Carlson decided to pilot a middle school student based enterprise for a second class. “I reached out to our staff with the concept. We were given orders for tables and benches that filled the second class. Both groups learned how to recognize characteristics and benefits of teamwork, leadership and citizenship in the school, community and manufacturing settings. They explored many different ways to manufacture the products and came up with jigs to help with the assembly process. They practiced appropriate problem-solving approaches and critical thinking skills to on the job tasks,” Carlson said.

At the end of the year students created the Genius Hour Awards that were handed out after May’s event at Amery Middle School. Carlson feels his pupils created and communicated multiple solutions for the project. He said, “They practiced appropriate problem-solving approaches and critical thinking skills to on the job tasks and issues by providing proofs during the process. They engaged in communicating their ideas, concepts and requirements among the team members as they designed the project.”  He felt they demonstrated a high level of professionalism each time they met with the client, which happened to be the school. They also learned about CNC tooling and were able to identify which were needed to complete the project. This group also learned how to make a single string electric guitar, which shows the variety of projects Carlson is presenting the students.

Carlson said, “The classes have a variety of kids from different interest backgrounds and different academic standings, and that is what this class is for to bring some of that together. It really represents what it will be like for them in the workforce. Sometimes I have to remind myself that these students are eighth-graders. They have a pretty high level of professionalism.”

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