June 7th – 8th were busy days for the students at San Antonio Elementary School in San Jose. Nearly 50 students in grades K-5 built furniture for their school makerspace with RAFT! The makerspace build is a project from RAFT’s Education department where we come out to the school’s parking lot and build usable wooden furniture to instantly turn a room in the school into a makerspace. 

We mentor students to assemble tables and shelving on castors so these furniture pieces can be used in a flexible way by the school following our workshop.  The students were grouped and assigned to different build stations led by RAFT project leaders.

Each group received safety training covering basic routines common for worksite safety and engaged in ample practice using power tools, clamps, tape measures, squares and other tools common to woodworking. They also learned how to read and interpret furniture plans for building the 8 tall tables that will be used in their makerspace.

Tenaya, one of the facilitators said, “I had a great group of 3 girls who were respectful and excited to build the table, with me as their mentor. I didn’t have to do any of the work for them, they worked efficiently with changing the bits on the drills, accurately assembled the 4 legs of the table, and even had time to install 2 of the castors.  I told them they could work on my construction project any day because they were so focused, got a lot of work done, and still had fun learning!  San Antonio students are responsible, optimistic, and dedicated.

This was an empowering experience for the students at San Antonio. Many of them have never held a power tool before but as they practiced alongside their peers and the RAFT project leaders, it was clear that they gained confidence and efficacy with the tools and materials but also with the concept of building together as a community.

They were so determined to finish and as their time for building came to an end, it was difficult to get them to stop! At the end of the day, many students returned to continue building until it was time for them to go home.

As facilitators of hands-on learning, we always hope to see students experience joy as they learn new ideas, concepts and skills. Some quotes from students that provide evidence of their growth in skills, confidence and joy include: “I want to do more of this!”, “I can use big tools!”, “I used to be afraid of using wood.” and “I did this!”

The experience of building the school makerspace will be well-remembered for all the students at San Antonio Elementary. We thank the principal, Dr. Ivan Montes, for collaborating with us to make this day special for the students. We also thank his remarkable staff from City Year who helped many of the students where needed.

We look forward to continuing to support the students and teachers at San Antonio and beyond. To learn more about our makerspaces, please visit https://raft.net/for-educators/makerspaces/ or contact education@raft.net to partner with RAFT.