ScoutingMay-June 2002

'Look What I Made!'

By Suzanne Wilson

At The Home Depot's carpentry workshop for children, Cub Scouts use hammers, nails, wood, and glue to build all sorts of projects.

Bam! Bam! Thunk!

The hammering was deafening.

The concentration was impressive.

Eight Cub Scouts from Den 1—brand-new Bobcats—pounded nails determinedly into wood that would shortly become fire truck-shaped crayon holders.

Several brave parents, helping to steady nails while their sons aimed hammers, were heard to exclaim: "Don't hit my fingers!" and "Ouch!"

The frenzied activity took place on an October Saturday in Joplin, Mo., at The Home Depot's Kids Workshop. Before this special outing, the den of second-graders from Pack 70 (chartered to the First Christian Church of Carl Junction, a town northwest of Joplin) had met only twice.

A home improvement retailer with more than 1,000 stores nationwide, The Home Depot offers free workshops in its stores on the first Saturday of every month. Boys and girls, accompanied by parents, can drop by during the two-hour session and build the day's designated project, which might be a space shuttle, toolbox, birdhouse, or one of 47 other kits. Construction may take as little as 20 minutes, depending on each junior craftsman's ability with a hammer.

A great resource

How's that for a great resource for Cub Scout leaders, especially to get a den off to an exciting start? Under the guidance of a skilled instructor, the boys participate in an activity that fits in with Wolf Achievement 5, "Tools for Fixing and Building." (Other national and some local retailers offer similar skill-building activities for children at no cost or low cost. See sidebar for examples.)

Christine Stanley, development supervisor at The Home Depot in Joplin, leads that store's workshops. When Den 1 came into the warehouse-like receiving department, she outfitted each boy with an orange apron personalized with his name. It was his to keep, a small version of the ones worn by the store's sales associates. Hammers, wood glue bottles, and safety goggles were on the worktables.

Stanley got everyone started, but the project was essentially do-it-yourself.

Den leader Sherm Nichols held up a plastic-wrapped project kit. "Look, it's a fire truck, like the one you saw outside," he told his den. "It's cool." Coincidentally, a Joplin Fire Department truck had been parked, on display, in front of the store when the boys came in.

When kids and parents unwrapped the kits, precut wooden blocks, wheels, pegs, and nails tumbled out. Goggles went on the Cub Scouts, because the first steps involved nailing parts together. The noisy fun began.


Christian Dalton and his mom, Melissa Johnson, started by studying the illustrated kit instructions. Christian's tongue peeked out while he concentrated on hammering the truck hood to the cab.

Sharon Noel offered to start a nail for her son, Evan, who protested, "No, Mom, I don't need your help."

Dustin Lawrence was steaming though the project with his parents, Jeff and Bobbie, supervising.

"Good job! All right!" said Bobbie as Dustin finished hammering the five truck body parts together.

"I had it figured out before I did it," Dustin announced. He placed an axle peg through a wheel, applied glue to the peg, and inserted it into a pre-drilled hole in the truck body.

"Get your hammer and tap that in," advised his dad. The trick was not to tap the peg in too tightly, leaving room on the peg for the wheel to turn. "Whoa, that's good," dad concluded.

Good for parents, too

"The workshop gives kids self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment," said Christine Stanley. "It's true for parents, too, because some of them have never built anything. The best thing about the Kids Workshop is giving parents and kids one-on-one time to work together."

Matt Tiefenbrun, a company spokesman at The Home Depot's corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. (see, says the corporation holds the free workshops because "it's a great way for The Home Depot to work with the community, because the community means so much to us as a company. They give to us, and we're able to give to them. This is one way we can give back."

At The Home Depot in Joplin, 100 to 200 children attend each session, and many return every month, wearing their orange aprons. For each completed project, a child receives a special button to pin on the apron. The workshops are geared to children ages 6 to 12, so they'll work for Webelos Scouts and younger Boy Scouts, too.

Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in Joplin also draws Scout groups and parents to its Kids' Clinics (see sidebar at right). Linda English, assistant store manager, says, "They enjoy every minute of it." Woodworking kits are often seasonal projects, such as pencil boxes for fall, birdhouses and planter boxes for spring.

Learn by doing

At Den 1's meeting before their visit to The Home Depot, the Cub Scouts got a head start on using tools and completed a few requirements for Achievement 5.

Working on a long board nailed to a smaller scrap of lumber at each end for support, the boys used claw hammers to pound nails in and pull them out. They drove in screws with flathead and Phillips screwdrivers and then took the screws out, sometimes getting confused on which way to turn the screwdriver.

"Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey," advised den leader Sherm Nichols.

In the Kids Workshop that Saturday, the Cub Scouts had more hammering experience and a lesson on using wood glue. "You learn the virtues of not using too much but just enough," Nichols observed. Before leaving the store, they checked off another Achievement 5 requirement by visiting the tool department to learn about different woodworking tools.

Dustin Lawrence's dad, Jeff, showed the boys an awl with its sharp metal tip, a tool pictured in their Wolf Cub Scout Book. "You can begin a hole with this to start a nail or a screw," Lawrence explained. "Or you can scratch a straight line on wood." Parents and boys then found and discussed wrenches, crowbars, C-clamps, and saws.

The Cub Scouts left carrying their fire trucks and wearing their orange aprons. Christian Dalton showed his apron pockets. "I could put tools in this and help my dad. You can also hold crayons in the fire truck. I'll probably paint mine green."

The Kids Workshop was an ideal activity for both the den and its leader, said Sherm Nichols. "From a leader's perspective, you don't have to put it all together, you just have to get the kids there. And the level of difficulty was about right for those boys.

"They seemed pleased with the project, and all thought it was neat," he added. "And the kids and their parents were in there together, and that's good."

Contributing editor Suzanne Wilson lives in Joplin, Mo.

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