A Jacksonville, Florida, shop teacher has used an innovative method of teaching construction skills since 2002. His students use the same building skills used for homes and commercial buildings to construct dog houses and houses that provide protection for feral cats. Since the beginning of the program, the teacher’s students have constructed 600 dog houses and over 100 homes for cats.Students donate the doghouses to the local humane society. The program provides the homes to low-income families with outside pets. Even in Florida, living outside is dangerous for animals that have no protection. The environment brings new challenges daily, and these houses make life for outside animals more comfortable.
For the students, the project introduces the use of power tools and other construction techniques used in the industry. The project is simple enough that students are able to complete it during the class, which gives them a sense of pride. It also involves more practical skills than building traditional shop projects, such as a napkin holder.
Over time, the plans for the houses have evolved to provide improved protection and usefulness. Because of student suggestions, the doors of most of the houses are now built on the longer side of the house, allowing the animal to move to a more protected corner when dealing with wind or rain. A student also suggested constructing the houses for feral cats with removable tops, which allow for easier cleaning and removal of feral kittens for the humane society’s spay and neuter program. Students are also responsible for the idea of adding feeding stations to the houses.