Osseo School Grads Bring Woodworking, Life Lessons to Fourth Graders
A thousand fourth graders in Osseo Area Schools are getting a hands-on opportunity to craft their own bird feeders free of charge.
Karl Erickson and Bryan Henke, two District 279 graduates, are making it possible by giving back to the school district they came from.
Erickson serves as the program manager of woodworking at Elpis Enterprises, a nonprofit that provides job training for at-risk young adults. It primarily trains youth in the trades, but this particular woodworking program is a little different.
“It also offers up an opportunity for an intern who’s interested in a career in childcare or education, or youth programming in some other fashion,” Erickson said.
The free lesson opportunity at District 279 was made possible by fellow graduate Henke, who owns Sterling Custom Homes.
Building the Workforce
The Elpis woodworking team, primarily made up of youth in the program, helped set up on Wednesday morning at Cedar Island Elementary in Maple Grove. Across the hall, Erickson played teacher with a lesson that was a bit unconventional.
“You are part of a project that I am trying to do– to try and help 10,000 fourth graders build a bird feeder in their classroom,” Erickson said to a class full of fourth graders.
It’s a part of his project: “The Land of 10,000 Diverse 4th Grade Birdwatchers.” The mission teaches youth the basics about birds and how to create their own feeders to take care of them.
Erickson started the session with a lesson on birds and their impact on the environment. The students helped him identify birds they might identify at their feeder.
After the lesson, a class full of fourth graders got to work on their own bird feeders. Elpis interns and team members led the way.
“They are kind of paying those skillsets forward to have kids experience success in all those different classrooms and youth programs,” Erickson said.
Valentina Wanna is a part of Karl’s team. She said she’s never worked on a project like this before.
“It was my first real, technical job and it just stuck,” Wanna said. “I was like, ‘I’m really good!'”
Wanna said its given her confidence that she can take throughout her career. She hopes to go into a career that involves child care in the future.
Another student in the program is starting a full-time job with Sterling Custom Homes thanks to the opportunities given to him through Elpis.
Building the Future
The program was a success for fourth graders at Cedar Island. The kids CCX spoke with were excited to build something of their own.
“Not every day we get to build bird feeders!” Rylee, a fourth grader, exclaimed.
Others were just excited to try something different.
“I like days that are more different, like not just normal like this. This is actually fun; not math,” Brooke, her classmate, said.
This is the 44th Minnesota classroom that is getting in on the action. Erickson said its a confidence booster for every kid who tries it.
“At the end of the day, every kid here in a success story. Every kid finishes their project,” Erickson said. “This is kind of a confidence builder that allows them to go into the next subject ready to go for the next thing.”
Kids got a bird feeder to take home and a confidence boost to take on anything.
The lessons will continue throughout the next few months for fourth graders at other Osseo Area Schools.