• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Students work together to design, build Little Free Libraries

KASEY MONTGOMERY, a sophomore at Woodford County High School, provided guidance to Northside Elementary first-graders Hannah McColl, left, and Audia Rose when they applied paint to the exterior of a Little Free Library last Friday at WCHS. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

EVIE DUNCAN used a screwdriver to secure a clear plastic window onto the exterior door of a Little Free Library, with some guidance and help from Woodford County High School sophomore Jay Willis. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Northside Elementary first-graders traveled to Woodford County High School last Friday morning to help paint and put some finishing touches on 34 Little Free Libraries built by students in Robert Greene’s intro to manufacturing class.

The Free Little Libraries (birdhouse-like structures for free neighborhood book exchanges) were built using design ideas from Northside first-graders when they visited WCHS earlier in the school year.

“It’s fun because they (the first-graders) have a bunch of creative ideas,” said WCHS junior Richard Osborn.

“They came up with some excellent design ideas,” agreed Greene, “some enhancements and embellishments they wanted on their products.”

Some of the first-graders’ ideas for visual add-ons to the structures were similar. Others were very different, like a “Quadricorn” from the Final Fantasy video game, but “they all had good ideas,” said Richard.

Using those suggestions, Greene’s students built Free Little Libraries of varying shapes and sizes, including some resembling run-in sheds commonly seen on horse farms, he said.

“They’re learning a lot of customer service skills with this,” Greene said of his students. “Interviewing the young students, finding out what their needs are, fulfilling those needs.”

With a program being started at WCHS to better meet the workforce needs of local manufacturers, Greene said it’s important for students to get exposure to manufacturing processes.

“I love working with my hands. And I thought it’d be cool taking a manufacturing class,” said WCHS student Kasey Montgomery, “being able to work with my hands – use drills and hammers.”

She and Sophie Wingo had already taken an engineering class, so these high school sophomores were looking forward to actually building a product like Little Free Libraries for schools and neighborhoods in their community.

“…we’re going to be like – hey, I built that,” said Sophie.

This partnership with Northside Elementary has also helped Greene’s students gain a better understanding of how to overcome challenges (like school days missed because of winter weather) and complete a project.

“It wasn’t as fast and fluid as we’d like,” Greene explained. “It has been a lot of starts and stops. There will be (those types of challenges) with manufacturing and with meeting customer needs.”

WCHS juniors Ben Browning and Brandon Cromwell agreed that they needed to be very detail-oriented when turning a design on a computer screen into a usable product built to satisfy a customer.

“The hands-on part is definitely more of a challenge,” said Brandon. And yet, having a hand in building structures that will become the homes for books that other kids will get to read makes their efforts worthwhile.

“It’s good just knowing we didn’t do all of this work for nothing,” said Ben.

In addition to being able to help design Little Free Libraries for their schools and neighborhoods, all 70 first-graders at Northside Elementary School got to visit WCHS and “open their mind to what’s to come,” said Northside first-grade teacher Amy Gordon.

“This is great,” she said. “Look at them over there working together. It’s the cutest thing … This experience here, it’s amazing. I love it.” Gordon and Greene were among 100 winners of Voya Unsung Heroes grant awards. They received a $2,000 scholarship in October to support a partnership, which began last school year.

This year’s project to build Little Free Libraries for schools and communities supports Woodford READS (Read, Explore And Discover Success), which already puts books into the hands of students in Woodford County Public Schools.

“Those little books that they get from Woodford County (schools),” said Gordon, “might be the only books that they have. So this way if they’re out there in the community, the hope is that they could just walk over (to a Little Free Library) and pick a book, give a book or just take the book…”

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