Bright Ideas Grants: Construction class creates outdoor learning center at CEC

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Construction Fundamentals team members stand in the shelter of their completed outdoor learning center at Central Educational Center. From left are Mason East, John Ashley, Rebecca Crowder, Evan Wedell, Hayden Jackson, Austin Milla, Tyler Houston, Mitchell Camp and Brandon Dahn.

By REBECCA LEFTWICH
rebecca@newnan.com
Recipients of Coweta-Fayette EMC’s Bright Ideas grants use the money for a wide range of educational purposes, but Central Educational Center is no ordinary school and its construction program no ordinary coursework.
A second-time recipient of Bright Ideas money, CEC Construction Director Tom Barnett decided this time to encourage his students to use the $1500 for a lasting testament to the skills and benefits of a vocational/technical education. Team members in his Introduction to Construction class – the second in a series of building and construction track courses – recently completed work on an outdoor learning center at the CEC campus in Newnan.
“We wanted to build something at the school that would be here for generations,” said Barnett, who added that many of the 15 team members who participated in the project have brought parents, siblings, boyfriends or girlfriends and other family members and friends to the campus to show off their work.
And that’s fine with Barnett, who says vocational and technical educations are viewed as inferior to other paths.
“Often, vocational team members don’t get as much credit as they deserve for the skills they have developed,” Barnett said. “We often recognize sports and academics without giving much thought to those that have mastered the crafts that are so important to everyday living.”

CEC construction team members did initial setup and squaring, dug holes, set posts, framed the roof, put on vinyl siding and installed the metal roof on the structure in about nine weeks.

“These students worked through the fall of the year sometimes rainy and cold November and December weather to complete a project that was meaningful to them, something they could take pride in doing and show their skill levels to their peers,” Barnett said.

As the class worked, Barnett interacted with them, talking about laying out rafters, cutting angles on materials and other aspects of building and construction that are “really important for someone in that line of business,” said Barnett, who demands excellence from his team members.

“They did what we call an industry-standard job,” Barnett said of the outdoor learning center. “I wouldn’t turn out something that’s not up to standard, so we made sure it was right when we did it.”

And that hands-on approach resulted in a permanent multi-use structure that can be enjoyed by CEC faculty and students.

“Teachers – or directors, as they are referred to at CEC – now have an alternate teaching environment and can use an alternate delivery style that could allow them to do things or demonstrations they could not otherwise do in the classroom,” said Barnett, whose team members also plan to set up two large picnic tables they’ve built inside the structure. “Or it may be one that may appeal to students more so than the four walls of a classroom.”

Barnett said statistically, only about 10 percent of his team members will pursue construction as an occupation and some may earn degrees in construction science, engineering or another field and follow a professional path. However, he said the skills they learn will be useful no matter what the future holds.

“Whether team-members are following construction as a career or not, they have obtained ‘consumer skills’ as most want to someday become independent, while maintaining and owning their own homes,” Barnett said.

A previous Bright Ideas Grant paid for what Barnett calls “Project Energy Save,” which involved, among other things, attaching motion sensors to lights. Other construction department projects have included everything from wooden cutouts for Christmas decorations to pavilions for local businesses.

“I just dream up something I feel will be beneficial for the school or the community” on which construction team members can hone their skills, Barnett said.

“This time, it worked out for them to build something with practical use that will be lasting,” he said.



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