Home Improvements at Wells Middle School

When you are maintaining a home, you can either pay someone to make repairs or you can learn how to fix things yourself.  Students in Glenn Palmieri’s Home Improvements class at Wells Middle School are choosing the latter, gaining valuable skills that will help them when the time comes to take care of their own household.

Walking into Palmieri’s classroom is like walking onto a job site. There’s lots of buzzing, whirring, and thunking and the smell of wood. In the middle of the room, students are cutting sheet rock with utility knives. Another group is measuring a frame of a small room for outlets. And one group is installing a window. 

Palmieri was explaining the difference between the front and back of the window.

“There are ‘weep holes’ in the front to let the rainwater flow out–it’s a common mistake at a job site to see the weep holes upside down if the installers aren’t paying attention to details.”

The class is an eighth-grade elective that is all the rage. It has become one of the most sought-after classes at the school. Over the past two years the program has expanded in size. In fact, plans are in the works to create a similar class and space at the high school. This class isn't necessarily aimed at turning students into contractors, but rather to give them a look into what their parent or family member does in order to maintain a home, see how and why things are built the way they are, and to give them a few skills that could help them be better homeowners, with the ability to do some easy household repairs.  During the course of the semester, the class builds a bathroom, complete with electricity and plumbing.

“Those are skills for life,” said Palmieri. “In an age of technology, AI isn't going to fix a damaged outlet or clogged drain, a person is, and with a few bits of knowledge, my students learn that they can.”

Palmieri is always using new teaching methods. He starts out with a simple lesson and then explains things in a true jobsite fashion–which is more complex. All of his lessons are hands-on. It is clear his lessons are received.

Savannah Wilson and Samantha Fazio are stripping wires.

“We practiced on our own outlets last class. It’s pretty satisfying to know how switches work,” said Samantha.

“We bunched and unbound these black wires–the “line” wires–together, as well as the white wires. If you cut the wire while the electricity is on you could start a fire,” said Savannah. “You have to be careful!”

Elena Zagajewski , who holds a pencil in one hand and a T-square in the other explained, “I really feel like I can help out around my house. I know how to use tools and measure. Right now we are measuring for the outlets–all you have to do is hook the T-square to make perpendicular lines.”

Leander Markaj has really taken an interest in the work, “Mr. Palmieri talks to us about how much money stuff costs and how much you have to pay other people to fix stuff, and if you know how to do it yourself, you don’t have to pay a lot.  The more I learn, the more I like it.”

Submitted by Brewster, NY

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