By Mike Marsee
Nick Stinson is making his mark with the blade of a scroll saw.
In a workshop at the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, Stinson is carving the intricate details of the Kentucky Department of Education’s logo one letter at a time.
He is one of several students at the school who are crafting wood and metal representations of the new KDE logo, which was created last year. The students’ creations will be displayed at the agency’s offices in Frankfort.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Stinson, a senior carpentry student.
The logos being built by the Breckinridge County students are part of an effort to display students’ art and other works in KDE’s new headquarters at the 300 Building. Some items, such as the logos, will be on permanent display, while others will be on loan.
“We want people to see what our students can do,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said. “Moving into a new building last year gave us a blank canvas, and I can’t think of a better way to fill the walls and halls than with the work of Kentucky’s students. I want anyone who visits the KDE to be clear that our focus is on Kentucky’s students.”
Kyle Lee, KDE’s coordinator for visual and performing arts, said the agency will have displays of artworks by students from all regions of the state.
“It’s important that we showcase the great work that kids are doing in our schools,” Lee said. “There are fabulous pieces of artwork being created and they don’t always get their due credit, because it’s hard to get that artwork outside their school or their district.”
Breckinridge County ATC students were asked to create the hand-crafted wood and metal KDE logos because of their school’s reputation. Machine tool technology students at the school have been creating training hardware for a NASA project that uses the hardware in mockups of the International Space Station. Carpentry students have often constructed gazebos and small buildings on the request of local residents.
David Horseman, the director of KDE’s Division of Technical Schools and Federal Programs, said he knew instructors and students at the school would be up for both projects.
“I knew they had the skill sets and the equipment to do both projects, and they jumped at the opportunity to do it,” Horseman said.
“The school’s got a good reputation,” said Tom Thompson, the former principal at Breckinridge County ATC who moved into a role last year as a regional coordinator for KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education, said he’s glad his former school was called upon.
Stinson said the school’s carpentry program has demonstrated an ability to produce quality work in a short time frame.
“Not to brag or anything, but I believe this school is one of the best ones in carpentry. We can pretty much get anything built in two or three weeks at the most if we just have one project going on,” he said.
Will Farmer’s carpentry students began work on the woodcraft late in the fall semester. They first had to design the project, determining how to construct it and which woods would work best.
“We started working on the math behind everything. Carpentry is math and I love the math part, figuring out the outside diameter, inside diameter, how long our boards need to be,” said Farmer, a first-year teacher. “Generally, I don’t allow them to use a calculator. I’d like them to show me that they’re actually understanding the work. Even if their answer’s wrong, as long as they’re trying, that’s what I’m looking for.”
Because this project is, as Farmer said, “more intricate” than the students’ usual work, it requires different tools, such as a scroll saw and a band saw.
“We started with trying to get students used to the tools and the safety aspects of them,” Farmer said.
Each letter in the KDE logo – there are 55 in all, plus a comma – must be cut out and sanded by hand. The silhouetted students at the center of the logo add still another level of intricate detail.
“This expands their curricular activity and the students like doing it,” Horseman said.
Both Farmer and Stinson, who is one of about half a dozen students working on the wood logo, said they like the change of pace.
“To me, it’s more advanced, and it’s a whole lot more fun. It gives me an opportunity to try something new,” Stinson said.
Stinson, who spent some time carving the letters in the KDE logo and doing other detail work during one of his days off during Christmas break, said the carpentry program has taught him both the skills of the trade and a strong work ethic.
“It helped me by making me a better worker, wanting to work, wanting to get out there instead of just being lazy,” he said.
The metal version of the logo is in the design phase. Students are using computers to create a template and they have been considering the best materials to use based on price and workability. The finished product will likely be made of steel and aluminum. The logo is a few inches too large for the machine that will cut it, so it will be built in sections that will be fused together.
“They’re learning a lot about detail work,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he hopes to bring the students who are working on the two projects to Frankfort for a formal presentation once both pieces are finished.
Lee said KDE’s goal is to have student-produced artworks on display in the 300 Building by this spring.
“And we don’t want to leave teachers out,” he said. “We want to make sure we have the exemplar model that the teacher used and the students’ work side by side because both are equally important in our schools.”
There will be further contributions from CTE students as well. They’ll be producing shelves and other displays for the artworks.
“I’ll probably involve some other schools to work with Kyle on building those,” Horseman said. “It’s a great showcase for our students’ skills, and it’s an opportunity for us to get some material without spending classroom funds.”
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