For the past nine years, The Furniture Trust, a non-profit organization that is committed to responsible reuse or “upcycling” of unwanted furniture, has held an annual Eco-Carpentry Challenge. This event introduces local high school students recycling and the reuse of old materials. These schools specialize in the technical trades that can offer kids the opportunity to develop the necessary skills that can lead to jobs in fields such as carpentry, metal fabrication, graphic design, construction, and building maintenance.
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to mentor students from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Jamaica Plains, MA, who had previously won the people’s choice award.
At the beginning of the year, items such as used office chairs, desks, cubicles, lamps and tables are donated to the Trust by local businesses and are then distributed to the local high schools in early February. Then, over the course of three months, students work with teachers and mentors to create new products to showcase in the Challenge. The program presents the opportunity to expose these kids to the importance of creating a better environment by reusing discarded items, as well as helping them to develop useful trade skills and the chance to work in in teams.
This year, the students I worked with created a gazebo, which featured a working grill made from filing cabinets and wire shelving, a greenhouse planter box made from an old table, plexiglass and pallets. The structure of the gazebo was made from a table that was cut down to make the 4 columns that reached nearly 9 feet high. An old IT server rack was cut and welded to create the beams for the roof. The canopy that was draped over used old cubicle wall panels which the students took apart and stitched together to provide a waterproof cover.
The Challenge’s exhibit, showed off the work of eleven high schools. Judges picked the best in show, runner up and the crowd selects the people’s choice award. This year, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School received the runner-up award. Now that the challenge is complete, the products will be donated to community.