SFHS construction students build barn for Bookworm Gardens

by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

It’s not often that high school students have the opportunity to gain hands-on career training, earn class credit and contribute to a worthwhile community-service project all at the same time.

Members of the construction class at Sheboygan Falls High School (SFHS) recently had the chance to do just that, with the completion of an interior timber frame for the “Charlotte’s Web” barn at the new Bookworm Gardens children’s literature and horticulture center at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan campus.

Since last spring, the 10-student class worked two 52-minute periods each school day to complete the initial construction of the timber barn last week.

Upon completion of the barn’s frame on the SFHS grounds, the class dismantled the structure and transported it to Bookworm Gardens, where they reassembled it.

“This has been a pretty large-scale, intense project for the students,” said Ed Hughes, SFHS technicaleducation instructor and construction-class teacher, “It has been a great way for the kids to learn the construction trade and what it takes to complete a big project like this.”

During the course of the project, students used skill saws, levels, plumb bobs, hammers and chain mortisers to cut notches in the aged timber, to connect the beams and solidify the structural frame.

“There were no metal, screws or nails to deal with,” Hughes said. “All of the work was done by preparing and connecting wood planks and beams with slots and pegs.”

The students worked with aged timber from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“The frame is made of reclaimed timber, which dates back well over 100 years,” Hughes said. “Much of the wood had been used previously in barns and preserved for future use.

“It is a combination of a lot of different woods, like oak and pine, among others,” he said. “It is a great learning experience for the kids to work with this type of wood.”

Class member Jesse Warner said working with the old wood provided its share of challenges.

“Because we were working with 100-year-old wood, it had a tendency to warp and bend a bit,” Warner said. “We focused hard on getter it square, by checking levels and lining everything up correctly.”

The hands-on class has engaged in a variety of other school-related construction projects, but Hughes said none of those compares with the “Charlotte’s Web” barn.

“The students have built sheds, garages and cabinets around school, but this is something totally different,” Hughes said. “It has taken a lot of hard work to get this done.

“The best part of it is that it’s such a great community service project,” he said. “Doing this gives our students a significant sense of accomplishment and contribution to the community.”

The Bookworm Gardens project is not the first taste of community service the class has had this year.

“One day in October, the class installed windows and siding at a Habitat for Humanity house in Plymouth,” Hughes said. “It was a very good day for our kids. It was a good opportunity for them to install windows and siding, because that is something we don’ t get to do very much at school.”

The opportunity to take part in the Bookworm Gardens project came about, when the Sheboygan County Carpenter’s Union met with area vocational construction instructors last year.

“We had a meeting with Sandy Livermore of Bookworm Gardens and the Sheboygan County Carpenter’s Union,” Hughes said. “When they discussed having high school tech-ed students do the work, I thought it was a great idea.

“We were very fortunate to be selected to do the project,” he said. “It is a great privilege, because it’s something that really has never been done before at Falls High.”

Bookworm Gardens, which broke ground in June, is designed to offer children and adults the opportunity to read, learn and play in a natural, garden setting.

The theme of the garden, which will be free to the public, is based on children’s literature, with 78 books represented on the grounds.

Upon completion in summer 2010, the garden will include outdoor classrooms, a small amphitheater, a greenhouse, a teaching kitchen and plenty of areas to read and discuss books.

“It is really cool to be involved in such a cool thing for the community,” said Ben Falbab, SFHS construction class student. “I am very proud to be part of this, and I know the other guys feel good about it to.

“We all plan to go to UW-Sheboygan and check it out when it is completely finished,” he said.

When the frame is reassembled at Bookworm Gardens, the Sheboygan County Homebuilder’s Association will donate time to complete the inside and outside of the barn.

“The Sheboygan County Homebuilders will be finishing up the building,” Hughes said. “Our students may come in and help to build the exterior doors.”

Class member Cory O’Keefe said teamwork was the key to the success of the project.

“Our class worked well together,” he said. “We all had a common goal and team building was a big key to getting the job done right.

“Mr. Hughes was great about giving us different jobs to do and letting everyone contribute in every area of the project,” he said. “Everyone did their job for the good of the team. We didn’t really have too much conflict.”

Hughes commended the students on their dedication to the project.

“The kids were evaluated for the class, based on participation and their work ethic,” Hughes said. “This is a very good group of kids. I rarely need to tell them to get to work or what to do.”

Construction class members include: Doug Arpke, Sam Johnson, Steve Kasper, Nate Sloma, Matt St. Andre, Nick Van Stelle, Ben Felbab, John Kummer, Cory O’Keefe and Jesse Warner.

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