wood shop teacher John Niemiec – a Madison resident – is unabashedly proud of his students. Late last week as they toiled away assembling a 8-foot by 10-foot shed, he pointed around the group of students saying things like, “This guy is great,” and “This guys loves to learn,” and “This is my right-hand man.” The students receive the praise with grace and work hard for their “boss.”
Much like a traditional construction job site, Niemiec is the foreman and various students assume roles of project leader and laborer as they work together to build. The current project is a shed and it’s not just any old shed – it’s an ordered item that would have cost the customer at least $3,000 had he purchased it elsewhere, said Niemiec. Built by the Branford High School wood shop students, the shed will be about $1,300 and the price of lunch for the builders. The customer is member Michael Krauss.
Now on their third project since opening their services to the community, Niemiec is looking for more residents to enlist the work of Branford’s youngest for-hire hands (email Niemiec at JNIEMIEC@branford.k12.ct.us if interested).
About 15 of Niemiec’s most skilled students from four, advanced wood shop classes work on projects like Krauss’ shed over the course of a semester. Already, they have built a shed for , the high school’s occupational foods teacher for the holiday parade for the Downtown Merchant’s Association.
“This is real-world skill,” said Niemiec who added that local contractor Matt Reale of M.N. Reale Construction has even donated time to help students with the project.
Branford High School senior Conor Daley has worked in the construction field before and said, as he took a brief break from leading the shed job, “I’ve done tons of framework before so this is perfect; they [his fellow students] really get to learn.”
Of the hands-on experience of building the shed, Daley said, “I think it’s a better way of learning at school rather than in the classroom – it’s really learning a trade.”
Junior Dylan Carleton echoed his classmate: “It’s life skills; it’s kind of something that you’ll never not need.”
The shed will be completed with barn-style siding and erected and roofed on Krauss’ property with the help of Reale’s construction crew before the school year ends. Niemiec said the next project after that will be a canoe-build for Bannon. If you are interested in hiring Branford High School students to build you a shed, canoe or more at cost (plus the price of one lunch), email JNIEMIEC@branford.k12.ct.us.
This summer Daley will not be returning to construction – his former gig was working with Stony Creek-based Doug Johnson Builders – but you can find him down at Birbarie Marina detailing boats. After this summer, it’s off to Brighton Academy where he hopes to further his lacrosse career. He also has plans to continue to use his hands and skill set attained from Niemiec.
“It teaches students if you put enough time into something, it’s nice to see the outcome,” he said.