By MICHELLE MERLIN firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Students in a skilled trades class at Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District’s Career-Tech Center work together to align wooden beams and attach them just right.
They’re crafting a wooden enclosure to go around exposed utility cabinets in the city’s Clinch Park.
“You have to do a lot of math to figure out where the studs go and where the boards go,” said Elk Rapids 12th-grader Sean Wells. “We really have to do a lot of thinking about it.”
There’s not a whole lot of room for error in this project, on which students are working at school before the enclosure is assembled on-site by another group.
“It’s always tough to build something and take it someplace and it has to fit. That’s part the challenge,” said Randy Kitzman, the skilled trades instructor. “They’re used to the idea that, ‘If I’m a little off, you can trim a little.’”
Traverse City officials approached the students about the project in order to save thousands of dollars it would have cost to have someone else build the enclosure.
“We find these young people are very creative and talented and come up with a lot of ideas, and it doesn’t cost us any money,” said Russ Soyring, Traverse City’s planning director.
The community service aspect of the project appeals to Career-Tech students.
“If we get them started with the concept of doing some community stuff and not worrying about making money on it as adults, they’ll continue to do that,” said Kitzman. “I think that’s an important part of the idea as far as being good citizens.”
In return for their free labor, students are getting to put their skills to real use. The project’s architect and Traverse City’s planning and engineering assistant, Missy Luick, spoke to the students about the project and their careers.
“This is more of a work experience which would put them in the realm of a real world project so they can see what it might entail,” said Career-Tech Center Principal Patrick Lamb.
Students enjoy getting out of the classroom and using some hands-on skills during the school day. They also think that they’re really learning practical skills.
“In everyday life, we might be building a shed and thinking about doing stuff like what’s right here,” said Mancelona 12th-grader Iean Musser.
The enclosure is made from local black locust wood, provided to the city by SEEDS, a local nonprofit group. The black locust is considered an invasive species in the area, and is a harder — and hardier — wood than the students usually encounter.
Kitzman hopes the students will be done with the project by Christmas.