2009-12-10 / Local & State

Toys Rolling Off Assembly Line At Pennsylvania High School


HANOVER, Pa. (AP) – On a shelf in TJ Buchanan’s highschool wood shop sits a handcrafted wooden truck, one of only 25 like it ever made.

The other 24 trucks, which were built by students in one of Buchanan’s second-level wood shop classes at South Western High School this fall, will soon be scattered across the area, covered tight with holiday wrapping paper and perhaps decorated with a festive bow.

And each will quite possibly make some smiling child’s day on Christmas morning.

That’s because this year, after polling his class on what they wanted to make for a wood shop project on mass production methods, Buchanan said his 25 students decided almost unanimously in lieu of making something for themselves to instead create a toy that they could donate to Toys for Tots. After a few meetings to decide what type of toy to make, and some time for planning and prototype creation, the class chose a wooden truck, he said, and construction began.

Buchanan said this classroom unit is meant to teach how mass production and assembly lines can create a more-efficient method of producing goods. And over about three weeks and 15 class periods, students had a much better idea of those methods, he said.

But by the time local Toys for Tots representative Owen Walsh and Buchanan’s students had carefully placed the trucks into black garbage bags and loaded them into Walsh’s car recently, Buchanan said it was clear the class had learned so much more.

“On the bottom of each of those trucks we carved ‘South Western High School’ with a router, so the kids wanted to make sure they were built well and right,’’ he said. “The boys were even more concerned than usual about the quality of their work, because that’s their school’s name on there.’’

And in addition to school spirit and pride, Buchanan said the visit from Walsh also helped bring into focus something it’s often hard for teenagers to compute – there are many less fortunate kids out there.

Buchanan said his class listened silently as Walsh explained some local children might receive nothing for Christmas. And he said when Walsh explained opening a package on Christmas Day would likely mean the world to a child like that, “I think that made (the students) feel really good about themselves and what they’d done.’’

Likely Buchanan’s class will do a similar project next fall and again donate the toys, though that type of decision is usually left up to the individual class. The kids tend to do better on projects they choose and are personally invested in, Buchanan said.

But if he had to bet, Buchanan said next year’s students will probably once again choose a charity project over making something for themselves. That’s just how they are, he said.

“Lately a lot of public schools have gotten a lot of bad publicity, but those are the extremes and don’t represent the whole,’’ he said. “It could have been any group of 25 South Western students who could have done this project, because that’s just what the kids here are like.’’

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