Learn by doing. That phrase is deeply engrained in 4-H’ers all over the country.
A group of 4-H’ers from Ohio County recently had a chance to put that motto to the test.
The crew from “Barnwood Builders,” led by WVU alumnus Mark Bowe, visited Jackson’s Mill to film an upcoming episode featuring students from the Northern Panhandle. The WVU Extension Service Ohio County 4-H’ers focused on working as a team, honed their critical thinking skills and used their know-how to solve problems.
The group worked for three days to build a 16-by-20-foot structure that will be used as an education center where visitors, including future 4-H’ers, will learn about Appalachian heritage.
“As a huge fan of the show, being part of this show was a life-changing experience for me,” Sam White, Ohio County 4-H’er, said. “I learned leadership in 4-H that helped me take the lead in certain parts of the building process. Also, I learned to be more comfortable around people I don’t know and to be able to work with them.”
This is a return visit to WVU Jackson’s Mill by Bowe and his crew. In 2018, “Barnwood Builders” worked with a team of WVU leaders to construct a new arts and cultural building at the Mill.
The project was so successful that he wanted to take it a step further by helping young people gain new perspectives and skills to help them succeed in the future.
Bowe, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics and a master’s degree in safety management from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, said this is the first time “Barnwood Builders” has worked with students on a project like this. He and his crew were impressed.
“I’m really proud of these young people. They give me so much hope for the future. The group did a tremendous job working together to complete various tasks – from start to finish.
“This was such a great way to give them a hands-on experience that allows them to grow, while making mistakes and solving problems,” Bowe said. “As they work toward their career goals and aspirations, having strong leadership and critical thinking skills are crucial to future success. These 4-H’ers are particularly interested in expanding their knowledge and experiences.”
Ohio County 4-H’er Kaitlyn Adams was excited to take on this unique challenge. And, she was able to take some of the lessons learned in 4-H and apply them to the project, while also learning a few things along the way.
“Teamwork is so important. While building the cabin, we ran into a few problems – some that seemed like big problems. But they were easily fixed by doing a little brainstorming and using team work,” she explained. “I learned that you can’t do everything on your own, and it’s okay to ask for help.”
During filming, the 4-H’ers also got to see a local artisan showcasing paper marbling in the building that was constructed during the fall 2018 episode, and learned about the history of WVU Jackson’s Mill.
“This is just one of the many extraordinary opportunities I’ve been given through 4-H,” Adams added.
Bill Freyler, a long-time 4-H’er and volunteer in Ohio County, was instrumental in making this experience a reality for the students by providing funds for the materials used in construction. He was able to visit the team to see firsthand what this experience meant to them.
“I believe in 4-H and 4-H’ers. They are our future, and I am proud to provide them this unique learning opportunity,” he said. “These kids really learned a lot about themselves and each other.”
In honor of his generous contribution, the structure will be named the William J. “Bill” Freyler Cabin.
For White and the other 4-H’ers who worked with the cast and crew of Barnwood Builders, the experience is one that they will not soon forget.
“My favorite part of the experience was seeing the final pieces being put together and thinking, ‘Wow, I can bring my grandkids here and tell them the story of how I helped build this,” White said.
The WVU Jackson’s Mill 4-H episode of “Barnwood Builders” is slated to air on DIY in spring 2020, and White and his fellow 4-H’ers are looking forward to watching the show.