Hands-on at MWV Career-Tech

Hands-on at MWV Career-Tech? Oh yes, it's on
Posted on 05/27/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Hands-on at MWV Career-Tech? Oh yes, it's onCONWAY — In the world of career tech, students get to do real-world hands-on projects.

That’s one of the attractions of the Mt. Washington Valley Career and Technical Center — whether it's working on a tiny house, creating a gourmet three-course meal or designing parts for the International Space Station.

Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered remote learning at Kennett High School on March 23.

With the deadline for remote education extended out three times to, ultimately, the end of this school year on June 15, teachers have been faced with finding hands-on challenges with which to test their students.

Fortunately, the teachers are a creative bunch.

“At first, we only planned to go remote for two weeks,” said Virginia Schrader, director of the MWVCTC, said by phone on Wednesday. “For some of our career-tech teachers, they could do some minor projects with a lot of theory and back work until we got back into the school.

“When that didn’t happen, everything has been forced to go visual, over the computer. This is when our teachers had to get really inventive."

Schrader said she was amazed by the outpouring of support the Tech Center has received from the public.

“So many companies have stepped up and offered us software for free,” she said. “We have such dynamic graphics, it’s really helped us.”

She added: “Our staff has been impacted probably the most by remote learning because they can’t just do projects on the computer, there needs to be a large aspect of hands-on work.”

Teachers within career-tech have worked together to compile a video, set to “This is How We’re Living,” by Michael Franti, which highlights some of the projects the Eagles have been working on. (View the video at youtube.com/watch?v=XiDMAPt7dJU.)

The center currently trains students in 12 programs of study: advanced manufacturing, automotive technology, business education, construction trades, computer-aided design and drafting, computer science, culinary arts, graphic arts, health science technology, marketing education, teacher education and cosmetology.

Students in Andy Shaw’s advanced manufacturing classes were asked to build a functioning rubber-band powered car, where they had to “research a design, creating print, building your design and videotaping it.” They also had to make an inspection report of all of the critical dimensions.

“Make sure you take into account you need to build it out of supplies you have at home,” Shaw wrote in his instructions.

 “They had to videotape it, and it had to travel a minimum amount of feet to pass muster,” Schrader said.

Another project Shaw’s students took on was to create their own hand-powered cellphone charger. In MacGyver-like fashion, they needed need a cordless drill, aluminum foil, an old cellphone cord, a pair of diagonal pliers or a razor blade, a piece of wood and some string.

“I’ve heard from three parents, who say ever since remote learning started that the scissors are gone and the duct tape is missing,” Schrader said.

Schrader said Joe Riddensdale (drafting and CADD teacher) "has got his students building bridges out of Popsicle sticks."

In culinary, she said, Alison Bickford, culinary arts instructor and sous chef Mary Donovan have been giving their students different kits, complete with measuring cups, where they will have to cook something, write a narrative and do a video. "The students are doing everything from cooking to doing food costs for their menus,” Schrader said.

In construction trades, teacher Paul Cail has put together kits for his students to make their own miniature tiny houses.

Cail is a fixture in his shop at the high school on weekends.

“The kids deserve this — no one in the state is doing this,” he said Tuesday. “The kids want hands-on — they want to use their hands and to stay off the computer.”

Schrader said the teachers and staff connect with students using Google Classroom, which is “a free web service developed by Google for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments.

“I have to say Google has made our lives a lot easier,” Schrader went on. “It seems to be providing upgrades every day."

She added: “Looking at our attendance, we’re not off very much at all when you compare the absentees to a traditional school day. We have a live list of the kids, and we reach out to them if we’re not seeing them. The students and teachers have done an excellent job of keeping in touch. The name of the game here has been flexibility and allowing teachers to do what’s best for students.”
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