Summer break, winter vocation |

Summer break, winter vocation

Agriculture classes teach practical skills

Sparks fly in the two bays of an oversized garage, and the sounds of metal grinding on metal overpower all but the most intimate conversation.

Students laugh and joke as they work on projects only they can explain.

In the Moffat County High School vocational/agricultural building, it’s difficult to define whether students are developing practical skills or building careers.

That’s because they’re doing both, instructor John Hadden said.

The coursework ranges from the agriculture mechanics class that teaches students the basics of automobile maintenance and small-engine repair to an advanced welding class.

“It’s fun,” sophomore Shawn Archuleta said. “I like working with metal and being able to make whatever project you choose.”

Students in Rick Murr’s advanced welding class said they like a class that’s different from what they consider regular high-school fare.

Shawn Steele, a 10th-grade student, said the course is a fun way to learn a new skill — one he’s sure will factor into whatever career he chooses.

The two were making a barbecue grill this week, which will be auctioned in May to raise money to help sustain the program.

Funding cuts are an issue as heightened accountability has caused schools to put more resources into strengthening their core curriculum.

Community partnerships help keep Moffat County’s vocational program afloat.

The Bureau of Land Man–agement gives materials to the metal shop that students use to make cattle guards. The finished product is returned to the BLM and installed on public roads. The BLM also provides materials that students use to make “bird ladders,” which the Colorado Division of Wildlife places in livestock watering tanks.

“It’s a great project that the BLM has been working with us for years on,” Murr said.

The partnership benefits everyone involved, Hadden said.

In another welding-class project, students take old water heaters, cut them in half and build feeding troughs for livestock.

Murr said ranchers have been using water heaters as feeding troughs for as long as he can remember. The project was one that Murr worked on as a student.

Instructors are rather nonchalant about a project that is the epitome of a successful recycling program, benefiting ranchers, helping the students practice their skills and easing the pressure on the Moffat County Landfill.

“We’ve been doing it for years, but no one ever thought about it as recycling,” Haddan said.

And the troughs, sold at the program’s annual project auction each May, help sustain the vocational program.

Most of what students create in the high school’s vocational building is used to sustain the program. Among the offerings at May’s auction will be a carport, coffee table, end tables, decorative signs, plant hangers and stands and decorative mirrors.

In the agriculture construction class, students have constructed three storage sheds — one that was donated to area senior citizens and another that will be sold at the auction. Students also made a utility trailer that’s expected to be a sought-after item at the auction.

Despite what its name implies, the agriculture construction class doesn’t focus on mending fences or building barns. The curriculum includes several aspects of building maintenance and construction. Students learn how to work with electricity, mix concrete, survey and handle basic plumbing tasks.

“The class is designed to tweak an interest in the construction industry,” Haddan said.

It also helps them solidify some of the core skills needed to be successful in other courses.

“There’s a tremendous am—-ount of math in construction,” Hadden said.

“Kids learn math better in an applied setting.”

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or

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