For the past fourteen years, high school shop teacher Barry Stewart has taught his students to build dog and cat houses to donate to animals in need of shelter.
Pets may have homes and families, but they might not always have the necessary shelter to protect them from unfavorable weather. Stewart hopes that the projects built in his class will provide animals with the dwellings they need, all while inspiring students to do good for their community.
In his fourteen years of teaching shop, Stewart and his students have built and donated more than 600 dog houses and 110 cat houses to animals in Jacksonville, Florida.
Stewart found the inspiration for his curriculum over a decade ago when he heard of the Houses for Hounds program, which provides dog houses to low-income dog owners. Given his experience in teaching shop, Stewart realized he could combine creativity and charity within the walls of his classroom. His students would learn the fundamentals of construction while also directing their efforts towards a good cause.
These projects not only teach Stewart’s students useful construction techniques, but also enhance their creativity and problem solving-skills.
Students have come up with improvements to the pet houses, such as placing the entrance to the side instead of in the center so that dogs won’t be directly hit with rain or cold drafts. They also designed cat houses with removable roofs to allow easier access for cleaning.
“That experience taught students that there is actually a thought process behind most things…Even a really good idea can withstand some improvements,” Stewart said in an interview with PEOPLE.
There are also students who love animals and are excited to dedicate themselves to their projects. Their passion and positive attitudes only contribute to the success of Stewart’s brilliant idea.
With Stewart’s help, students earn more than just a grade—they learn essential problem-solving skills and also become aware of the importance of compassion and giving.