Woodburn High School woodshop class built some sturdy picnic tables this past semester that will be used at the school

COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN SCHOOL DISTRICT - Woodburn High School students from Kurt Hueller's shop class pose with their fall-term project: five picnic tables that will be used at the school.What do you do with 18 kids, a few scattered resources and materials and host of youthful energy?

Well, Woodburn High School woodshop teacher Kurt Hueller implemented such a mix this past fall, and the school is going to enjoy a handful of new picnic tables for the effort.

Hueller did a bit of networking with community supporters, like Kelly Long at long-standing Long Bros Building Supply, added in some school resources available and guided his class in a reasonable, yet worthwhile project.

With a relatively new and rebuilt shop, the students were game for the project.

"It was fun being able to work with other people and make something from the beginning to end, especially since I've never done this before," said student Carlos Mauricio.

That was the idea.

"I figured let's make something that we can keep here at the school," Hueller said. "We built five of them (picnic tables), and it was a new, hands-on experience and environment for a lot of the students."

Hueller has had decades of such hands-on experience in construction, including that of a business owner. The education element is a fairly new aspect for him; he is in his fifth year teaching. But he's parlayed his experience as a business owner to the shop class, knowing that many of these students will be the workers of tomorrow.

The first challenge to that end was to remind himself that the students will be new to most of the tools used.

"We were actually baby stepping out there. There are a lot of nice tools, and with my background I've used these tools, but that's not the kids' background," Hueller said.

Picnic tables proved to be the right fit.

"I didn't want to do something (detailed); I wanted something that was … forgiving, I guess," he said. "The main thing is establishing some workmanship. Not that they didn't turn out well — they turned out very well."COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN SCHOOL DISTRICT - Picnic tables built by Woodburn High School students this past fall turned out well. The stacked tables were subsequently painted by the students.

The next step for the students was to paint the tables, and the result will be that the school will have them as fixtures for outdoor use during lunch periods and what not.

Of course, the overarching product is the lesson. Hueller has worked in electrical engineering and as a building contractor for 25 years. So, the importance of early lessons does not escape him.

"As an employer in the greater Salem area, you realize who is going to building all this stuff in the future," he said.

A sense of accomplishment early on is a good start.

"It was a fun experience, getting to build something from scratch with my own hands for once," student Faith Din said.

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