Students take construction in stride |

Students take construction in stride

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

Minden Elementary School opened this week to the whir of electrical saws and thud of hammers.

With the construction of a new wing under way, the staff of MES decided to make the best of it by incorporating the theme of construction into the curriculum.

Positive Actions Change Everything – or PACE – activities are a way the school gets students to interact with children they normally wouldn’t mix with. PACE activities adopt a theme for the year and then a younger class is paired with an older class to complete an activity.

Teacher Lynn Sahlin said last year the theme was “Up, up and away,” and the school was visited by a hot air balloon on the first day of school.

“We try to kick the year off with a real positive activity. This year, our theme is ‘Learning under construction.’ We are gearing a lot of things around the construction,” Sahlin said.

Although the 10,000-square-foot wing is expected to be finished in early November, Principal Klaire Pirtle said the year has been divided into three periods. For the first couple of months, students will be studying foundations, then support, then structure. The construction will cost $940,000 and the equipment to fill the new classrooms will cost $40,000, said district Business Services Director Rick Kester.

Even the construction company is getting into the spirit of things. F. Evans Construction has donated orange hard hats and Home Depot has donated orange aprons. Usually, the teachers wear the hard hats when they are doing the PACE activities, but they will also be used by the students when they tour the construction site.

Students and teachers have been inconvenienced – student traffic before and after school and at lunch had to be re-routed – but Pirtle said the staff wants to make it a positive experience.

“They will see it from the ground up, so instead of saying, ‘Oh, no, it will be dusty and noisy,’ we will be saying, ‘Yay, we are getting eight new classes,'” Pirtle said.

In September, the construction crew, engineers, plumbers and others involved in the building will participate in a career day so the students can learn about different jobs available in the construction field, Pirtle said.

Teacher Monica Hart led the first PACE activity Monday with Pamela Ertel. Hart’s 1st graders worked with Ertel’s 3rd graders to build a good foundations for tissue box “structures.”

The students used 15 marshmallows and 30 toothpicks to build any shape or size foundation, but it had to be strong enough to hold a box of tissue.

Individually, the classes had learned about foundations earlier in the day. Hart said her class attempted to build a tower of blocks on the foundation of a table, and discovered it was not stable enough.

“In the 1st grade, they don’t have that good of an understanding about it yet, but they will. We did some activities to help them,” Hart said. “We tried to link the idea of foundations to learning and how 1st grade is the foundation for all learning.”

Hart said the PACE activities give all the students something in common.

“It gives the whole school a link, something they do together. They interact and it gives a cohesive atmosphere to the school,” she said.