Coronado woodshop students in shed-building business
New class includes instruction in practical uses of math, geometry
Two years ago, Coronado High industrial arts teacher Gary Hilty introduced the school's first woodshop class in nearly a decade.
This year, he's started an advanced class that is building sheds for paying customers.
Actually, it's just one shed at this point, built during first semester. But a second is being pre-fabbed in the school shop and will be ready for installation after spring break, Hilty said.
Because the district provides no funds for materials, the working plan is to build a unit, then sell it to make enough money to build another one. Customers so far have been other educators. The start-up materials cost was covered by a grant from the National Association for Woman in Construction (NAWIC). Getting materials to the job site is an issue too. “We borrow a car trailer,” he said.
Hilty still offers his be-ginning wood shop, where students learn safety and tool usage and tackle simpler projects. Both classes are part of the school's Applied Technology area.
He decided to offer a second class to appeal to more advanced students, spicing it with “real-world” applications of math and geometry. “The goal will be for each student to gain a better understanding of both disciplines, which makes them more marketable to industry as they look at future careers/post-secondary education,” he explains in his course description.
The advanced class has proven popular, with 27 students enrolled.
Because Hilty does not require that advanced-class students take the beginning shop class, he teaches the same levels of safety and tool knowledge in both - meaning that students have to get 100 percent on the safety test before they can start making anything. “That's the reason nobody gets hurt, because we spend so much time on it,” he said.
Hilty has found that kind of introduction is often needed. “We get some kids who don't know what a flathead screwdriver is, or even how to use a hammer,” he said. Another “weak area” is measurement. “I tell them to measure three times and cut once,” Hilty said. “Two of the measurements are for them and the third one is for me.”
The idea is to show the students how to do it right, then let them work on their own. The kids do all the work, learning from their mistakes. “If it comes out bad, they'll just have to redo it,” he said.
Brian Bae, a Coronado junior, was part of the group that built the shed during first semester. He thinks he learned a lot from working on an actual job site. “It was partially on a hill, so it was different from the woodshop,” he said. “We didn't know what was going to happen.”
Although he had been part of the robotics team and is skilled in math, Bae said he came into the shop class with “not a lot of experience” in practical construction. “I've learned a lot about everything - big power tools, wood grains and safety in general,” he said, adding that he thinks the experience will help him as he moves toward his career goals in engineering.
Nick Frazer, a freshman, said he'd come in with some construction experience, having mainly worked with his dad. He's already thinking about a career in construction contracting. A take-away from the class was that “it doesn't take a lot to put your mind to something and build it… and to work safely.”
Hilty hopes in the future to move his students toward even more complex projects, such as playhouses, decks or gazebos. These would require them to consider such issues as overhangs, deck supports and other types of angles, he said.
Shop classes are becoming less common in high schools, other than auto. In its early years, Coronado had offered an array of vocational studies, but as academic trends changed, full-time positions were no longer available for those types of teachers. Hilty is an exception because he also is qualified to teach engineering, school officials have previously explained.
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