Classroom Connection

Bringing More Than Building Skills Into The Classroom

December 01, 2014

The sound of hammering is music to the ears of teacher Kathleen Kalena. That pounding represents a classroom full of third graders learning new skills during a visit from The Home Depot.

It started just over five years ago when Ms. Kalena, a teacher at North Dover Elementary School in Dover, N.J., was looking for student activities and struck up a conversation with Joe Coscia, store manager at Home Depot store #925.  Logistics and funding issues kept the students from visiting the store during the school day, so Joe offered to bring the spirit of the store right to their classroom. Over the years, Joe and many of the Dover store Classroom Connectionassociates have built a relationship with the school and now visit three to four times a year to conduct workshops with Ms. Kalena’s students.

This fall, the team arrived with Wizard of Oz birdhouses to build. “It’s so rewarding to pull up and see the kids out front excited for the arrival of The Home Depot,” said Donna Gonzalez, an associate who has been with the store more than 13 years.

After a brief introduction, the dissemination of mini orange aprons and a few words on the importance of safety goggles, the group went to work on the birdhouses. But the workshop was a lot more than wood, hammers and nails. “There’s a practical application to all of the things they learn at the workshop,” said Ms. Kalena. “It’s not just about building a birdhouse for us. The kids will go home tonight and look up facts about birds, and we will also begin reading The Wizard Oz. This is an interactive visit which incorporates many areas of their learning.”

While putting their geometry, multiplication and teamwork skills to the test, the students were buzzing with excitement. “My dad helped me prepare for Home Depot’s visit today. He taught me building tips last night,” noted one third grader. “I was so excited that all I could hear on the bus ride to school today were hammers pounding!” exclaimed another.

The school’s principal, Kathy Rutan, loves seeing the interaction between associates and students. “It’s wonderful for the kids to have that connection with another adult. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie between them as they build something together—the students leave here with a new best friend.”

Joe enjoys meeting with the kids and says the relationships last long past the event. “You only visit with them for a short period of time, but when the kids come into the store later with family or for Saturday workshops, they recognize us.”

In the spring, The Home Depot will return to work on a garden that they started during a previous season at the school. With shovels and orange aprons in hand, the students are sure to learn a lot more than planting. “These visits teach the students skills they will carry with them for life,” said Ms. Kalena. “It’s great working with the associates. We all have a common goal to provide the students with a unique, fun learning experience.

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