High School students need extra stimulation to use their minds to get ahead in our society, but it is extraordinary when they can build skills they never knew they had while helping others. A high school in Jacksonville, Florida has a top educator who gets his kids fully engaged in their shop classes. Because of Barry Stewart, a very special high school shop teacher, students are inspired to give of their time while learning how to build a shelter for every dog in need in the area.

The efforts of shop teacher Barry Stewart

Barry Stewart has been a high school shop teacher for the past 14 years and reaps the benefits of helping his kids to learn and be creative.

As part of his curriculum, Stewart developed the Houses for Hounds program where children learned to build dog and cat houses to ensure all pets have shelter, donating the finished homes to animals in need. Whether the dogs and cats are homeless or have loving families, they may not always have appropriate shelter to protect them from the elements. Stewart is hopeful that all the dog houses built in his class will afford animals suitable dwellings necessary while also inspiring his students the importance of giving back to their community. His efforts have been so successful that his students built and donated at least 110 cat houses and 600 dog houses over the past 14 years for needy animals throughout Jacksonville, Florida.

Teacher became inspired by the Houses for Hounds program to help the needy

It’s been more than a decade since Stewart was inspired by the Houses for Hounds program which offers dog houses to low-income pet owners. It was then that he realized he could combine charity and creativity within the walls of his shop class and his students became fully engaged with the idea to learn and build.

They grasped the concept of construction fundamentals, creativity, and problem-solving skills while also learning how to give of their time for a good cause.

As part of their creative ideas, students came up with simple improvements to the pet houses, such as have the entrance set to the side rather than in front to limit the animal’s direct hit with rain, snow or drafts.

Another suggestion was to create cat houses with removal roofs for easier cleaning. Shop teacher Stewart stated that the entire experience teaches kids to actually give thought to new ideas to enhance the pet home designs. Many of the students are passionate about animals, giving full dedication to the project. The students are earning more than a grade for their work in class but profound life lessons like compassion and giving.