DANVILLE — While students in today's classrooms use iPads, e-readers, clickers and other high-tech equipment to enhance their learning, 15-year-old Seth Williford prefers a hammer.
This year, the Danville High School sophomore and other members of his construction trades class are putting their knowledge and skills to the test with their latest and largest project — building a new 24-foot by 36-foot concession stand and storage shed for the football field.
"It's a big project, but I'm enjoying it," Williford said Monday. He believes he has found his niche with the class. "I just really like to work with my hands."
"I like to learn by getting in there and doing it," added 17-year-old Jordan Messenger, a senior. "And when you see what you've accomplished, you feel proud."
When Danville High offered the class a few decades ago, students built several houses including one that still stands at the corner of Jackson and Monroe streets. Last year, officials brought it back after a long hiatus to diversify course offerings and meet an area of interest among students.
"While we would hope that every student receives some type of post-high school education or training, the truth is that some students may not fit this mold," Principal Mark Neil said. "This class is important because the skilled trades offer students an excellent opportunity to excel in a class where they have a skill and an interest. And construction trades, welding and related skills are all specialized areas where students can enjoy a profitable and rewarding career."
Neil said building the new concession stand — which will replace the original one that's small and more than 60 years old — will give students a chance to apply their skills to a challenging real-world project. It also will save the district about $20,000 in labor costs.
The district will spend about $11,000 on materials and supplies. And a portion of the work — including pouring the concrete slab, electrical and plumbing — was or will be done by licensed contractors.
But "many basic components ... can be completed by our students with the assistance and guidance of (teacher Jim) Humrichous," Neil said.
In the class, students learn about building materials, plan specifications and codes and how to use hand and power tools safely. They also will learn how to frame floors, walls and ceilings; roof; install windows and doors; put up siding and possibly gutters; and drywall. In addition, they will learn basic electrical and plumbing skills by observing and working alongside union electricians and plumbers.
"They're also learning how to communicate, work as a team and problem solve," Humrichous said. "And, they're using a lot of math. This is the real deal. Everything has to be measured right so that it fits right. There's not a lot of room for error."
Last year's class built an 8-foot by 8-foot ticket booth. This year's class of 10 started out building bird and squirrel feeders and dog houses. They also helped to put on roof sheeting, install siding and build a porch onto a house at 1109 Robinson St. that Habitat for Humanity of Danville began building on Sept. 11. But it was this project that they were itching to do, Humrichous said.
The class began construction on the south end of Whitesell Field in late October. The concession stand, which will occupy the east end, will have two large serving windows and a window that looks out over the football field. A 24-foot by 24-foot storage area will be located on the west side and separated from the other side by an interior wall. The building will have gray siding and maroon trim, and an art class plans to decorate it with the school's Viking mascot.
Superintendent Mark Denman "wants this shelled up by the beginning of the winter," Humrichous said. Despite getting a late start, "I think we're going to make it."
So far, students have built and set the wall frames. Humrichous is pleased with the quality of work, but that isn't the only thing.
"They're kind of getting that swagger about them now," he said. "They have a little more confidence in what they're doing, and they feel like they're accomplishing something they can be proud of."
Messenger said she has not only gained more self-confidence, but possibly discovered her future career.
"I want to go into construction," she said. "I want to design my own dream house. It's going to have the white picket fence and everything."