Plymouth Middle School shop students help build new workbenches

Students in Mike Berner’s shop class utilize the newly constructed workbenches. (Sun Sailor photo by Kristen Miller)

The Saturday before school ended for the summer, Plymouth Middle School students participated in a service learning project, building new workbenches for the school’s wood shop.

The project was driven, in part by a Seven Dreams Education Foundation grant, and the foresight of technical education teacher Mike Berner.
This was Berner’s first year at the school and he saw a need to replace the individual student desks that found little use in a shop class. “In a wood shop, they didn’t make sense to me,” Berner said of the desks.

Plymouth Middle School students Gavin and Benjamin construct a workbench with Chris Gams from the Home Depot in Plymouth. (Submitted photo)

Berner applied for a grant through the foundation, a nonprofit supporting Robbinsdale Area Schools and funding hands-on learning grants and innovative education initiatives.

With a $3,000 grant, Berner purchased the lumber and materials at a discounted price from the local Home Depot. A total of 25 students and family, faculty, and community members built 15 workbenches to replace the 34 individual desks.

The benches, each 68 inches in length, fit two students per desk.

The benches allow for more work spaces for the students, as well as more room for storage of tools and projects, Berner explained.
“The project was an extension of what my students do in class every day,” Berner said. “We work in class using the engineering design process. If there is a problem, we come up with a solution by doing research, brainstorming and planning. Then we create and come up with ways we can improve our product,” he said.

After the benches were built and installed in the classroom, “we realized we needed to sturdy the benches up a bit” as a class, the teacher said.

They built rails tying the legs together that will also act as a shelf for storage.
“The students followed a set of plans with pictures, used measuring and layout tools, and assembled a workbench that they will get to use next year,” Berner noted.

Plymouth Middle School teacher Sue Elmer assists students Isabelle and Lauren on the construction of a workbench. (Submitted)

With the money leftover from the project, Berner was able to give away six $25 gift cards that day to six students to begin building their own toolkits.
“It was a really awesome day,” Berner said. “The success of the project makes me want to do something next year, if I’m able,” he said.

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected]