Anyone walking past the Indiana County Technology Center carpentry room in March would’ve heard tiny tap-taps from miniature hammers, and chatter and laughter, both high and low.

Looking in, you would have seen quite a scene—boys and their dads working together with high school students to build wooden birdhouses and racecars. It was all part of ICTC and Head Start’s Father/Son Construction Day, which not only brought the community together, it also gave families a chance to learn a new craft and let teenagers make a difference.

Learning tools

Head Start students ages 3 to 5 flocked to ICTC with their fathers or father figures—grandfathers, uncles or male family friends—by their side. The event helped ICTC carpentry students work on their building and leadership skills, while

fostering dexterity development among Head Start kids in a fun, constructive project, says Tim Bash, an ICTC carpentry instructor.

“It was an excellent project for our students. They integrated right in with the children and their families, and weren’t hesitant at all,” Bash says.

About 10 high-school age ICTC students—who are learning carpentry skills at ICTC to enter the workforce after graduation—volunteered to work with the Head Start students.

“It was a really sweet experience for everyone. The project allowed a direct connection for our students to help other people,” Bash says.

Laying out the plans

The program came to fruition after a conversation between Beckey Carney, family services manager for Head Start, and Bob Piccirillo, the learning facilitator at ICTC.

“In the past, (ICTC and Head Start) did an event called Santa’s Big Adventure at Christmas. We started thinking of other ways we could work together. The carpentry project was one of the ideas we came up with,” Carney says.

Lowe’s Home Improvement Store donated their Build and Grow kits, which included birdhouses, little scientist kits, play centers and other small crafts. A large work table built by ICTC students served as the project center where kids and their partners hammered away under the guidance of ICTC students, who helped younger students with tools and supplies.

“Some of the fathers had two children, making it hard for them to oversee two projects, so one of our students would help out,” Bash says.

The boys wore kid-size safety goggles and aprons supplied by Lowe’s and learned how to use kid-size hammers.

“It sounded like a little Santa’s workshop, all of that tap-tapping,” Bash says.

Beyond measure

In addition to learning new skills, the Head Start students benefitted in a way that can’t be measured, says Carney.

“It was so good to see these role models for our younger students. A lot of our students may not have dads or big brothers in the picture, so to see these great young men who gave up their own time was wonderful,” Carney says.

The older students jumped into the project and just “accepted” the little ones, Carney adds.

“For them to have the one-on-one attention and the conversations—I can’t describe it,” she says.

Continuing collaboration

At the same time the father/son building event was happening, ICTC also hosted a Mother/Daughter Spa Day during which cosmetology students gave Head Start moms and their daughters manicures and pedicures. For ICTC students, the collaborations are a chance to develop their skills and help others. In the past, ICTC culinary students also have helped teach Head Start families how to create healthy snacks.

“To see our students blossom and teach is fantastic. It is such a great experience that we can’t wait to do it again next year,” Bash says.

For Head Start students, it’s an inspiring and educational experience.

“I have seen some of my own former Head Start students from when I was a teacher who are now teaching the littler students,” Carney says. “That is a wonderful feeling to see them in their new role and learning such wonderful skills.”