January 20th – NEPTL was invited to participate in Build It! at Rigler School. Students and their parents had a chance to tackle hands-on activities like using hand tools and building structures from common household materials such as popsicle sticks or uncooked spaghetti.
Rigler is a K-8 public school located at 5401 Northeast Prescott that focuses on language learning, including a 2-way Spanish immersion program. Rigler’s 600 students come from varied cultural and language backgrounds, with about a third of the students speaking a first language other than English, including Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali.
NEPTL volunteers helped excited kids hammer nails and drive screws into a ten-foot 6×6, donated for the event by Parr Lumber. For many, this was the first time they had ever used hand tools.
At the hammering station, NEPTL volunteers provided a row of ready-to-pound nails for kids to test their skills. A pair of young brothers in safety glasses competed to see who could sink a nail first. They quickly discovered the delicate balance between power and accuracy, adjusting their grip as they tried to outpace each other.
Estefani and her friend Aracelie were among those who lined up to use screwdrivers to muscle drywall screws into the massive beam. After considerable effort, Estefani drove a screw almost flush and then paused. With a glimmer of recognition, she declared that she could probably use a screw at home to hold up a picture. To complete the task, she grabbed a pen and proudly signed her name next to the slightly protruding fastener. Nearby, Aracelie confidently turned her own screw into the wood while explaining that she and her dad built a doghouse together over the summer.
The event was part of an ongoing effort at the school to involve parents more in their kids’ learning and to foster the underlying supports that students need to succeed. Rigler staff planned Build It! to draw the interest of both moms and dads. “It’s often just the moms” who get involved, said teacher Mari Bartoo Jacobson. From across the gym she watched groups of kids and parents go from one activity station to the next, with dads significantly outnumbering moms.
At one table Cynthia Bui and her dad Dong were putting the finishing touches on a 12-inch long bridge made from popsicle sticks and duct tape. Cynthia, who studies Spanish at Rigler and speaks Vietnamese at home, explained the goal: make a bridge that could hold the most weight using only a small supply of sticks and tape. As she worked, Cynthia spoke to her dad in Vietnamese then explained that he had helped figure out that a triangle would make a stronger structure and would also use fewer sticks. Attaching the last piece of tape, she hurried off to another table to put her structure to the test.
Build It! helped spread the word about an upcoming school facilities bond measure that would renovate or rebuild aging Portland schools, including Rigler. After helping his son build a bridge, Anthony Lincoln spoke to parents about Measure 26-121, describing the need for a modern building to replace the 1931 structure. He lamented the current school’s leaky plumbing, antiquated heating system, and portable classrooms, and urged support for the measure. At a nearby table kids drew their own visions of what the new school might look like… roller-coasters and all.
Tom Thompson, NEPTL volunteer and Tool Master, enjoyed teaching the students about basic tools. “Half of them said they’d never hammered a nail before!” He felt the event was a success for the library, too, as he handed out NEPTL brochures to interested parents.
School counselor Nicole Levine expressed gratitude for NEPTL’s involvement and hoped it would help raise awareness among parents about the valuable community resource provided by the tool library, adding, “We’d love to see more families join.”