Between July 5 through August 30 of this year, the sounds of woodworking and a buzz of excitement could be heard behind the Transportation Building at Queensbury Union Free School District. Queensbury Middle School STEM II teacher Patrick “Pat” DiCaprio had been tasked the request of building two beautiful, much-needed storage sheds for Queensbury UFSD.
These sheds will be used as athletics storage sheds in several locations across campus. “Superintendent Gannon likes seeing things clean and crisp, and these two new sheds will replace one of the old, rotting storage sheds that is not being used anymore,” says Pat.
The first shed, painted a stark blue and crisp white, was completed fairly quickly and now rests near the WHBI parking area. The shed seems to be a beacon of pride, with the bright white trim showing off crisp edges the kids and Pat worked so hard to get perfectly aligned and in good shape.
Pat originally worked as a third grade teacher ‘for forever’, and owns his own construction business on the side. His experience has morphed into working at the middle school in the woodworking workshop, teaching STEM, and helping middle school students learn the necessary basic skills needed for building things from scratch.
“The kids enjoyed the workshop, so at the end of the year I asked every class if anyone wanted to work for free this summer,” he laughed, “no class credit or anything, and two students volunteered their time, to my excitement.”
The two students who volunteered were rising 9th grader Robert (Bobby) Sprague, and rising 8th grader Ja’kobi Briggs. “I often hire teenagers to help for my own business over the summer, so I had experience teaching the ropes to younger aspirational kids,” says Pat.
“Not everyone has to go to college, and when kids figure out that they enjoy working with tools, they become interested in Career Technical Educational pathways, and they learn quickly that they can get hands-on experience and even sometimes apprenticeships as early on as in high school,” says Pat.
Pat let the kids try their own at nailing the floor down, nailing the walls up, cutting lumber to exact measurements, helping paint the exterior, and along the way, they learned how to use tools such as nail guns, a jigsaw, and table saw.
Pat starts the kids off with a hand saw, so after a few weeks when they get to use a table saw, the power and precision of electric tools blows them away.
Dan Miller, director of buildings and grounds, ordered all the lumber, and Pat and the kids had to source the nails, screws, sketch a plan, and figure out the best way to put the buildings together.
“In the workshop, the kids come in with no experience, most of the time,” said Pat. “Some have been around and seen some tools before, but had never even held a paintbrush or were ever taught how to properly handle tools. I always tell them ‘If you aren’t sure, just watch and then try it yourself, slowly’.”