Capital Region Scrapbook: Do-it-yourself classes equipped Nott Terrace students for life

A slate of “do-it-yourself” courses at Nott Terrace High School in 1957 prepared young men and women

Schenectady school students studied English, mathematics and social studies during the fall of 1957.

Other pupils, including Bob Franciose and Angelo Piccirillo, were learning a little extra between morning and afternoon bells. They were picking up skills they might use during the 1960s.

A slate of “do-it-yourself” courses prepared young men and women for paychecks as nurses, welders, woodworkers, machinists and other jobs in the workforce. The lessons were different from ones taught in other classes.

“While it is well known that the city school system offers a wide range of trade, shop and technical courses, many of the ‘shop’ classes taught today are not specifically aimed at preparing students for making a living,” wrote Dave Vrooman, who covered the new curriculum for the Schenectady Gazette.

Old-fashioned shop classes were designed to give young people skills for leisure time, or provide them with a fair chance to make minor home repairs around the house.

Lester Williams, director of vocational education in city school during the late 1950s, described the hands-on training.

“The practical arts group in city schools is geared to a set of goals educators call ‘The Ten Imperative Needs of Youth,’ ” Williams said. “They include salable skills, health, citizenship, family life, consumer values, science, appreciation of design, worthy use of leisure time, character improvement and expression by the printed and written word.

“Pupils strive to reach these goals via a shop and laboratory program from the seventh to 12th grades that combines thinking and doing.”

Young people learned how to work with sandpaper, putty and paint. They discovered the challenges of plumbing and electrical work. Tasks in ceramics and metal were also waiting in shop labs.

Charles J. O’Brien, who taught metal shop at Central Park Junior High School, wanted his students to look forward. The future was waiting.

“Our program,” he said, “helps the pupils gain an understanding of the nature and quality of the commodities they will purchase as future home and family providers.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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