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Toys for Tots effort supported by PHS students

Polson High School shop & art students make wooden horses for local youth

By ASHLEY FOX (pictures and story)
Lake County Leader

20 horses Twenty shiny, smiling rocking horses sat patiently as they waited for their new homes, where children will ride them for years to come. The horses were on display at the Polson location of Western Building Center (WBC) after students from Polson High School assembled them for the local Toys for Tots campaign this Christmas.

Brian Moldenhauer, manager of WBC in Polson, explained that the idea came from another WBC location, up in Columbia Falls, who had the blueprints for the horses that were made by a local woodworker. As he’s friends with the manager at the WBC in Columbia Falls, Moldenhauer said he asked for the blueprints so that the Polson location could start planning for rocking horses this Christmas. Last year, six little ponies were distributed, Moldenhauer said. Donating Baltic birch plywood and “some regular solid material,” he added that the students at Polson High School, specifically the shop class and art classes, made the herd of little rocking ponies a reality.

“I just pushed the ball a little further down the court,” Moldenhauer said.

3boys Three of the 13 shop students — PHS seniors Kordell Walker, John Marquardt and Rene Pierre — all agreed that the task of making the horses has been fun.

Walker said that the senior-level shop class began making the horses at the beginning of the year. “It’s fun,” he said, adding that although the group applied their cumulated skills, “we kept making a lot of mistakes” at first.

Moldenhauer added that this type of project is “a learning curve” with “lots of parts and pieces to the process.”

Walker added that learning precision for the horses to come out “just right” was part of that learning curve.

The opportunity to build the horses was something that Marquardt said was enjoyable, as his favorite thing about shop class is being with his firends “and using my hands and getting to work.”

Pierre said that the class’ favorite part of the entire project, above socializing, was “contributing something that kids can look forward to.”

The three young men said they all have keepsakes from their childhood (yes, including “blankeys”), and said that the opportunity to build something for a child has instilled compassion, and they three hope to be able to give back to their community as they get older.

“They’re beautiful and it’s an outstanding effort by the kids at the high school,” Mauri Morin of Toys for Tots said, adding that WBC’s assistance helped the project to become “an outstanding success.”

Art Students from PHS helped paint shaped pieces of wood, art teacher Matt Holmes said. Between his last-period art class and other students that were completed with assignments, the rocking horses were painted piece-by-piece as the shop students cut out the wood.

Going from the shop class, to the art room where the pieces of wood were painted individually before they were assembled, then back to the shop class for assembling, Holmes said the completed horses were then taken back to the art room for one last inspection.

“We got them done just after Thanksgiving,” he said, adding that there was planning that went into the project so that the keepsakes could be finished in time for the Toys for Tots Drive. “We knew putting 20 of them together was going to be a task.”

The students were enthusiastic about helping, Holmes said, and the end result is impressive.

Acknowledging the learning curve that Moldenhauer mentioned, Holmes said, “teachers who saw the horses last year” compared the horses to this year’s herd, saying the new ponies are “even better.”

Brad Paskey, the shop teacher, said that the project was “self-driven” by the students, with little input from himself.

“It was nice to see them take priority of their work,” Paskey commented, adding that Walker, Marquardt and Pierre played integral parts in leading the project.

Holmes said that students showed interest in the project, “especially when they heard it was for Toys for Tots.”

Paskey said he would be interested to have another community project for the students to work on, noting that there aren’t many opportunities for the class to do mass-production- type projects.

It looks that the students are just as willing to help out. “It’s heartwarming,” Walker said. “It makes us feel good.. And it helps the community.”

ROCKING HORSES have been on display at Western Building Center in Polson. The business donated supplies to Polson High School shop and art classes, who made the toys for the Marines’ Toys for Tots drive.