Can Shop Class Rebuild a Struggling Community?

©. Studio H

From Hippo Rollers in Africa to the importance of emotional and intellectual design, TreeHugger is more than familiar with the work of humanitarian designer Emily Pilloton.

Yet we haven't, thus far, featured one of her most impressive projects to date.

Together with architect Matthew Miller, Pilloton's Studio H initiative recruited a group of high school juniors in the impoverished Bertie County in eastern North Carolina. Taking a fresh approach to traditional "shop class", Miller and Pilloton began exploring what it might look like if teens actually conceptualized, designed, prototyped and built things their community actually needs. The result was a 2,000 square foot farmers' market pavilion, built by the teens themselves.

And the process of building it has now been turned into a documentary movie called If You Build It:

"Faced with rising unemployment rates, a struggling educational system and simmering racial tension the people of Bertie County North Carolina turn to Pilloton, Miller and their students for help. We discover that what the class designs and builds for their hometown has a chance to transform their community for generations to come."

The documentary is currently making the rounds of the film festivals. Log on to the project's Facebook page for more information about where it will be screening next. I'm a firm believe in the need to rethink education, pretty much from the ground up. It's exciting to think we might be able to build some worthwhile things while we're doing it.

IYBI Trailer 2 -- Hi Res from OCP Media on Vimeo.

Author's note: This post is based on one originally written for the North Carolina Sustainability Center.