Olathe School District class takes DIY idea to the max

Ni­cole Meis, 17, mea­sures and cuts a piece for the con­struc­tion class project with help from Karla Tor­res, 17, and Mad­die O'Brien, 17.

The Kansas City Star - - The Olathe News - BY BETH LIPOFF Spe­cial to The Olathe News

Ham­mer? Check. Power tools? Check. A fully con­structed class­room? Well, al­most.

The Olathe School District’s Con­struc­tion Trades classes have taken on a unique chal­lenge — build­ing their own workspace. After spend­ing the be­gin­ning of the se­mes­ter on in­door de­mo­li­tion at the West Den­nis Sup­port Cen­ter, stu­dents are look­ing for­ward to lay­ing pipes along­side the school district’s plumbers.

“As we’re go­ing, we’re learn­ing what we need to do with our space. We’re tweak­ing stuff and de­sign­ing,” said Dave Pfort­miller, who started as the pro­gram’s fa­cil­i­ta­tor last year.

They hope to be done

fix­ing up their work­shop space, com­plete with plumb­ing and elec­tric­ity, by the end of the school year.

In ad­di­tion to con­struct­ing their class­room, the stu­dents are work­ing to­gether to prac­tice their con­struc­tion skills on sam­ple rooms, such as a bath­room. Those struc­tures will come down at the end of each school year, but the class­room it­self will re­main in­tact.

“At this age, they legally can’t, out­side of school, run around with all these power tools,” Pfort­miller said.

Pre­vi­ously, the Olathe Ad­vanced Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter housed the pro­gram, but the space avail­able for work­ing on projects wasn’t ideal. Classes used the park­ing lot and one of the au­to­mo­tive pro­gram’s ser­vice bays for con­struc­tion projects.

“The big­gest thing is to have high enough ceil­ings, so that way we can ac­tu­ally build struc­tures in here,” Pfort­miller said.

The new open workspace will al­low stu­dents to get more prac­tice ap­ply­ing les­sons on elec­tric­ity, plumb­ing and other av­enues of con­struc­tion.

“I think it’s in­cred­i­ble — the best project-based learn­ing you could ever ask for,” said Amy Stolz, prin­ci­pal of the tech­ni­cal pro­grams. “To see what this looked like be­fore and what it looks like not: it’s un­be­liev­able.”

Stolz said that be­ing able to ap­ply the math and science skills in a prac­ti­cal way en­gages stu­dents who might not other­wise find these top­ics in­ter­est­ing.

Stu­dents come from all over the district to be part of the district’s vo­ca­tional pro­grams for three hours a day. They spend the rest of the day at their reg­u­lar high schools.

“It’s a place where I could go work with my hands and move to­ward my field of work,” said 17year-old Josh Mu­sick. “… I def­i­nitely like be­ing able to put what I learn to work.”

As part of the two-year con­struc­tion pro­gram, stu­dents earn an OSHA10 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the end of their first year.

In their unit study­ing elec­tric­ity, they prac­ticed run­ning wires of all dif­fer­ent types through walls and con­duits and con­struct­ing cir­cuit boxes. Train­ing like this helps the stu­dents de­velop skills ap­pli­ca­ble to both com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion.

Other les­sons on the books for these classes in­clude rafters, dry­wall, sheetrock and plumb­ing. Pfort­miller said that hav­ing the hands-on, prac­ti­cal les­sons gives his stu­dents some­thing they can’t get by just study­ing in a class­room.

“The big­gest thing is prob­lem-solv­ing: How do we get the wire from here to here, plumb­ing from A to B,” he said.

Field trips and vis­its from pro­fes­sion­als work­ing in the var­i­ous parts of the con­struc­tion in­dus­try help stu­dents see how each les­son is rel­e­vant to the work they want to do.

“They en­joy com­ing in, be­cause it helps with re­cruit­ing kids to go work for them when they leave here. The kids re­ally like it where peo­ple in the in­dus­try are tak­ing them time out to come in and work with them. They’re learn­ing all the tips and tricks of the trade,” Pfort­miller said.

It also al­lows them choose where they might want to fo­cus fu­ture train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions so they can jump right into a field that suits them and not waste time. Stu­dents also get the op­por­tu­nity to net­work and set up in­tern­ships and sum­mer jobs.

Mu­sick, who at­tends Olathe East High School, got a sum­mer job with One Hour Heat­ing and Air Con­di­tion­ing be­cause he met peo­ple from the com­pany through this pro­gram. He hopes to go on to fur­ther con­struc­tion­fo­cused ed­u­ca­tion after he grad­u­ates from high school.

Some stu­dents will choose to go on to a fouryear col­lege, but “you don’t have to go to col­lege to be suc­cess­ful,” Pfort­miller said.

BETH LIPOFF Spe­cial to The Olathe News

BETH LIPOFF Spe­cial to The Olathe News

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