GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) — At Jackson Middle School in Greensboro, there is learning in action going on.

Students are building picnic tables with the help of volunteers. It’s all to expose them to the possibilities of careers in the skilled trades industry.

According to Dr. Thomasina Hayes, the CTE Teacher at the school days like this are important.

“This opened up doors for them. I always tell my kids, everybody will love college, but it’s everybody ready for college, or is that their cup of tea? Not always,” she says. “Some people may, some of the kids may go strictly into manufacturing. There’s nothing wrong with that. ‘Cause you’re still making money, you’re doing an honest living, you’re giving back to the community. And that’s what we uphold and that’s what we teach our kids to do.”

The event was sponsored by Timberland Pro and Saf-Gard. The volunteers know the value of introducing hands-on skills at a young age.

Ryan Murphy works for Timberland Pro and loves to see this hands-on learning.

“When you work with power tools, especially at a young age, there’s almost this empowering moment about it. And you know, at the end of the day when you see what you’ve built, there’s sort of this, there’s fulfillment in it, right? Like you get to see all of the labors of your love coming to life during the day, and now you have a tangible product that you’ve built with your hands.”

Plus, they said it’s fun to watch the students learn, going from being hesitant at first to all-out excitement.

“As they got more and more into it, they got frustrated for a minute and then they got excited to the point where one of them said to me at one point, I got this, you know, and he was like, he had a power drill in his hands,” said Sherri Young with Saf-Gard. “He could see, he felt really empowered. It was great.  And their eyes light up and they figure it out on their own.”

LaToya Faustin went to Jackson Middle and now works for a nonprofit called She Built this City.

“To be able to come back now to a generation that probably has never seen or used a power tool on a regular basis, to expose them to this trade that can make a very lucrative living for them and their families, it is very empowering to say, this is where I started. Let me show you this path and what it can do for you and your future.”

She says middle school is a perfect time to learn.

“Studies have shown that if a young girl is not exposed to a STEM career, science, technology, engineering, math, by the time she’s in the sixth grade, she’s not gonna choose it. So, programs that start in high school like, Hey, let me tell you about this career. It’s too late. She’s already decided ‘yes, I can’ or ‘no, I cannot do this.’ So, if you start early, let them know, ‘Hey, yes, you can do this.'”

For the students, it was fun and eye-opening.

“I could use this for the future for fashion design or when I get my own house. So, I feel like it’s a win-win to me either way,” Rikiyah Hines, an 8th grader, said.

“I came up and built a table and not a lot of people can say that,” Mahki Nelson said.

“Learning doesn’t always happen sitting at a desk in the classroom,” Murphy said. “Some of the best learning opportunities happen when you fail and you try again, and you try to problem solve and you work together as a team. I mean, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all doing on a day-to-day basis. So giving kids an opportunity to work on a team, work together, fail and iterate and try different things, and then learn from their mistakes and build something really neat at the end of the learning experience, so it’s really exciting to see.”

Young agrees with him. 

“It’s that spark that we want them to have and to go home and talk about it at the dinner table, talk about it and say, maybe this is something I should do,” she says. “‘I really enjoyed having a power tool in my hand.'”

From the looks of things, they really did! Some of the tables the students built will stay at the school so the students can see and use the fruits of their labor while others will go to charities.