Barry Stewart, a Jacksonville, Florida high school shop teacher, has found a unique way to educate and motivate his students in construction. Instead of building coat racks or napkin holders, Stewart’s students learn to construct animal houses and donate them to help pets that need them!
His project started in 2002 after hearing about the Forsyth County Animal Control’s Houses for Hounds program. Houses for Hounds began at a Winston-Salem, NC career center. The first year carpentry students began constructing dog houses to be donated to local animal welfare groups and low income pet owners.
Mr. Stewart recognized the potential for a similar assignment for his own students. While constructing pet shelters, the kids not only learn to build homes for humans on a smaller scale, they also learn to innovate changes to the design to make the houses a better fit for the animals.
During the course of the project, students suggested such practical ideas as moving the entrances to the side to provide more shelter from wind and rain. They installed removable roofs to allow for easier cleaning and the removal of feral kittens for spaying and neutering purposes. They also added a feeding station feature.
Since the program’s inception, his students have built and donated more than 600 doghouses and 110 feral cat homes. Their houses have been taken to organizations like Friends of Jacksonville Animals and EPIC Animals Outreach, who then distribute them to low income families.
Local animal welfare field officers keep some of the houses on hand to give to owners with outdoor pets. They also use each opportunity to educate these community members on the dangers of leaving pets exposed to the elements.
Through the Houses for Hounds project students learn a valuable life skill while and the importance of giving back to their community all while helping animals in need.
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