Students learn skills while working on drainage project at New Albany school

Students at the School of Career and Technical Education at New Albany High School are learning marketable skills and practical applications to solve a drainage problem at the school.

Earl Richards, director of School of Career and Technical Education, said, “Every time it rains here, the water will build up to three inches of rain at the bottom of the stairs leading into the building. Students would complain about having to walk through water every time they came to class.”

Richards talked to Damon Ladner, Agriculture Environmental Science Technology (AEST) teacher, Kevin Wiggington, drafting teacher, and Billy Matkins, building trades teacher, about applying the applications the students learned in the classroom to solve the drainage problem.

“The purpose is to give them hands-on experience and let them learn and practice because a lot of students learn best by using their hands. It also gives them exercise and fresh air and gives them an opportunity to get out of the classroom. They really jumped at the opportunity to do it,” said Richards.

The students from the AEST class and the drafting class shot the drop, measured the building, will design and build a slope and get the area ready for the building trade class to come out later and lay the concrete. This will be a concrete ditch with a certain angle, which will be determined by the drafting class. Then, the AEST class will do the landscaping.

Ladner said, “It is real good because the students are running the transit, putting engineering into it, shooting the grade, etc. Today to dig a ditch you have to be educated and know about soil types and you have to know the physics of where to place the ditch. This is the ultimate think tank where the students can apply all of these themes.”

There are 30 students from the drafting class, 50 students from the AEST class and 17 students from the building trade class that are working together on this project.

Kevin Wiggington, drafting teacher, said, “I think this is a different aspect to education that society needs to be paying more attention to. The kids love doing this work. They are starting before I even ask them. The students are proud and they have proof that they are accomplishing something good and worthwhile’ they can come back years down the road and still see what they have done.”

Richards said, “I think it will turn out to be a wonderful venture. We will see the finished product in a few weeks. It is one where the kids are able to put everything they are learning to work.”

New Albany School Superintendent Charles Garrett said, “This project is very relevant and very hands-on. It is a real application and the more relevant it is, the more you can raise the expectations of what students know.”

These three classes are based on a two-year curriculum. The first year is an introductory class and the second year was a more advanced, hands-on class with more practical applications. Richards said, “Whatever they do in the field, they are prepared for it. They now have some marketable skills.”

New Albany students and Union County students take classes at the School of Career and Technical Education. There are 111 Schools of Career and Technical Education in Mississippi, but the one at NAHS has the only high school engineering class in the state. The School offers 12 programs for students to take and help them decide a future career path.

“When they leave here, they are ready to go to a two-year or four-year college, workforce, military, or whatever they want because the skills they learn here are not just for that profession, they are skills they can carry with them no matter what they do. It teaches them how to think and problem solve. They get a great academic education at the high school and we show them practical applications here,” said Richards.