Hundreds of high school students returned to classrooms this fall to find cell phone caddies built by the BARN Woodworking Studio. Volunteers at BARN built the custom caddies over the summer to help Bainbridge High School (BHS) teachers implement a new “no-phone” policy and improve student learning.

According to BHS Associate Principal Amanda Ward, teachers have been frustrated by the distractions of cell phones and the ways these new technologies can negatively impact student learning. Some teachers have tried to use different methods, including hanging shoe organizers, to store student phones during class. Through the past couple years, a few teachers had received caddy systems that had been built with scrap wood and donated by BARN. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the teachers who had a BARN system shared with their colleagues how it had been effective. With a new cell phone policy going into place in the 2018-2019 school year, 40 teachers requested new caddies from BARN this summer.

Making the cell phone caddies required math and calculations, as dedicated volunteer Dick Culp can describe. The internal dividers create storage space for 36 cell phones surrounded by sides that are 3 ⅛ inches tall. He credited Dave Whitacre for the original design work. Culp, who has been involved with BARN from the beginning, made most of the caddies in 40 – 50 hours during the last weeks of August, with a little help from a couple other volunteers at BARN. He donated his time and skills, and BHS paid $400 for the sheets of wood and materials.

Ward said she was “really excited” to deliver the caddies and teachers have been grateful for the “positive difference” the caddies have made. The BARN-built caddies are convenient, sturdy, and well-organized. The uniformity of the caddies is also helpful so that students have the same routine in many classrooms.

In thank you notes to BARN, BHS teachers expressed their gratitude: “We will be much better learners because of you!” “The caddies look awesome!” “Thank you so much! I am very much looking forward to an improved class environment.” “Wow. This is so generous! Thank you.” “Thank you for making our lives easier!”

Why did Dick Culp make time for this project? A question with an easy answer: In the past fifty years, the Culp family has had two generations attend BISD schools. He has supported school fundraisers and a number of Bainbridge community projects with his woodworking skills. “It was always fun here [at BARN] making sawdust.” And this longtime island resident also has a generous heart. “I like community projects…I think it’s important for BARN to be out supporting the community in every way we can.”