Program Profile: Students Build Portfolios, Teamwork, and Real-World Skills at North Bennet Street School and Madison Park Carpentry and Locksmithing Program

Combining school year knowledge with teamwork and community improvement, students at the North Bennet Street School and Madison Park Carpentry and Locksmithing Program utilize hands-on learning to build much more than just construction projects.

The program, a new partner of the Boston Summer Learning Community this year, invites students from the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to expand upon their school year knowledge of carpentry and locksmithing skills. As they gain real-world job experience, students are adding to their portfolios and learning teamwork and communication—all things that and contribute to academic, personal, and professional growth.

“For this program we’re trying to mimic what a job site might look like as best we can,” Katie Theodoros, Director of Continuing Education at the North Bennet Street School, said. In a typical day, students receive instruction in the morning from Brian, the North Bennet Street School full-time carpentry teacher. Together, they set goals for their work and learn math skills that will be applicable later in their day of experiential learning, such as measurement and volume, as well as safety procedures.

Following this instruction, students get to work performing all the tasks of a job site, including unloading materials off of a truck, distributing tasks, and cleaning up. All the while, the high schoolers are developing and applying social-emotional skills while the program provides a glimpse into real-world applications of their studies.

“They’re learning a lot about teamwork and working together in an environment where there aren’t only goals, but also safety [to consider],” Theodoros said. “They can be the best carpenter in the world or the best person at nailing boards in, but if they’re not communicating that with the person that’s holding the board, it’s not going to go very well.”

Students at North Bennet Street and Madison Park Carpentry and Locksmithing Program exhibit a spectrum of prior experience and skills. With students ranging in school-year concentrations from facilities management to IT, there isn’t much crossover in curricula with the summer learning. Therefore, all students are able to build upon old skills and develop new ones.

Thus far, students have worked on some major projects. This past week they travelled through the North End, measuring doorways and sculptures with the thought in mind of building a box for some of the neighborhood’s landmarks. They also collaborated to build a large structure from a number of smaller units, honing their carpentry skills until the structure came together at the end of last week.

“They had to build all of the pieces individually,” Theodoros said. “Once it all went together, you could see their pride and sense of accomplishment shot up that last day. They’re spending all this time cutting all the pieces and it doesn’t look like much, but once you take that last step to put it all together it all comes together.”

Being a first year program, one of North Bennet Street School and Madison Park Carpentry and Locksmithing program’s goals for the summer is high attendance. This is incentivized by a badge system that rewards good work and behavior, as well as a stipend for the students to receive at the end of the summer, granted they meet a minimum attendance requirement. For Madison Park, Theodoros said the “big goal within itself” is the fact that these students now have experience to put on job resumes in the future.

While still a work in progress, the program is trying to adapt its usual curriculum—aimed at students 10-15 years older than those it serves in the summer—to appeal to and benefit high schoolers. According to Theodoros, this process includes determining “the potential for growth” with the students.

Theodoros has already noted impeccable growth in the students, both in the improvement of their skills that is making them more efficient workers and in the relationships they’ve fostered.

“The first day no one was really talking to each other, they didn’t really know each other from school,” Theodoros said. “But now just a couple days later it’s a very different vibe.”

With a successful first few weeks under their belt, the staff at North Bennet Street School and Madison Park Carpentry and Locksmithing Program is optimistic about the program’s future.

“Everybody is very excited about the program,” Theodoros said. “For North Bennet Street School, one of our strategic plans/goals is to strengthen our relationship with Boston, the city, and its residents, and this program is very clearly helping us do that. We’re really happy with it so far.”