- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ROCK FALLS, Ill. (AP) - The smell of sawdust and the sound of nails being drilled into wooden studs filled the air Thursday at Thome Elementary School.

Since the beginning of the school year, eight male students at the school have participated in a shop class.

“This class teaches the kids life skills,” said Rob Berry, who teaches the class. “You never know when you have to cut a board or put in a screw or fix a light switch.”

Berry also said teaching students how to use different tools is a valuable life skill.

To help in launching the class, the Bi-County Special Education Cooperative gave the alternative school a $490 mini grant.

The cooperative provides educational services for children with a wide range of disabilities, from autism to attention deficit disorder to physical disabilities. Its budget comes from state and federal money.

“Any teacher in Bi-County can write a mini grant up to $500 for whatever activity they want in the classroom that regular funding won’t pay for,” Berry said. “We used the money to pay for tools and toolboxes.”

Thome School enrolls students with behavior problems and emotional disabilities. Fifty elementary, middle and high school students are enrolled.

The grant money did not come until October, but Berry wanted to start the shop class before that. So, he put up some of his own money until the grant was available.

“It was only a couple hundred dollars, but it was worth it, and the kids really enjoyed it,” Berry said. “Teaching this class is very important to me.”

Students spent more than an hour in the shop class Thursday learning how to drill a screw into a wooden stud.

“Everyone needs to know how to use a drill and screw,” Berry said.

Berry also taught the students how to use a circular saw and cut a flat piece of wood.

Students will use the pieces of wood to make a box, which can be used for their school supplies.

The students have also done other projects.

At the beginning of the year, they wrote their name in pencil on a wooden stud. Then, they used a hammer and pounded nails into the letters to make their name.

“We sanded off the pencil marks and the nails showed their name,” Berry said. “They had a nice little name tag to take home.”

Students enjoy the shop class.

“We can do things in this school we couldn’t do in normal schools,” said Brandon, a seventh-grader. “At Montmorency School, my main school, they don’t have shop classes.”

Michael, a sixth-grader at Thome, said the shop class is fun.

“I like pounding nails and cutting the boards,” he said. “It’s a good class.”


Source: The (Sterling) Daily Gazette, https://bit.ly/14CEGYg


Information from: The Daily Gazette, https://www.saukvalley.com

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