Washougal High School students’ woodworking skill and creativity is on display at the new Downtown Community Garden at 2036 Main Street in Washougal. Decorated cedar bird houses, many with a WHS theme, sit atop poles along an edge of the park with a bird bath and benches set nearby.

The City of Washougal/WHS collaboration began last spring when WHS Wood Technology students were creating bird house kits to help community children build them as a part of the first-ever City of Washougal Hello Spring event that was cancelled due to the pandemic.  The materials, donated by Rick’s Custom Fencing, were then sent to students at home as a kit to be completed during distance learning this past semester.

“It was a challenge to get materials to students for them to demonstrate woodworking skills without being in the shop,” said Brent Mansell, WHS Woodworking Teacher. “This project gave students an opportunity to demonstrate learned skills by building a product and helped them do something besides look at a screen. Students take my class to develop trade skills, build projects, and gain employability and needed 21st Century skills. This work facilitated those lessons.”

Giving the bird houses they created back to the City also helped students understand the value of producing something for others.  “Some students struggle with the idea of creating something for someone else,” said Mansell. “They want to keep their projects or question what’s in it for them. We try to do these types of projects every semester. I think it’s important to connect my shop activities to being a better person, employee, and community member. It prepares them for work and being productive members of society, like donating your time to help others.”

Mansell hopes his students will go to the park, take their family and friends, and take pride in their work.  And there is discussion about more birdhouses for even more Washougal parks. “Our goal for the next round of birdhouses is to have lots of color,” he said. “We want to celebrate spring.”

“I love it when a plan comes together,” said Washougal Mayor, Molly Coston.  “This is another example of building wonderful community projects by working together with other groups in Washougal.”

There is also another flock of birdhouses built by community member George Gross and painted by Washougal middle school Club 8 art students installed along the parking lot at City Hall.  This project is sponsored by Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance who has sponsored several other student art projects in town.  For a map and more information on Washougal public art displays go to www.washougalarts.org.

The City of Washougal’s new Community Gardening Program promotes community building, sustainable practices, and ecologically responsible gardening. For more information on lease of garden plots, visit the City website or email parks@cityofwashougal.us.