Students Help Rebuild Almeda Community – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News
Instructor Katie Buttermore watches Phoenix-Talent Rising Academy student Starla Mikolichek cut a piece of wood to build a picnic table in Talent Maker City. Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune
Phoenix-Talent Rising Academy class making furniture for fire victims
“What is the longest side of the triangle? lead instructor Piper Tamler asks the students gathered near a bench-mounted chop saw at Talent Maker City.
Most respond with “hypotenuse”, the correct answer. It’s an introduction to the use of triangles as middle school students from the Phoenix-Talent Rising Academy build furniture for residents displaced by the Almeda fire.
Students learned how to use saws, drills, air hammers and other tools, and how to calculate and verify measurements. After four sessions, the students produced eight bed frames and branched out into bookcases, benches, picnic tables, flower boxes, and stairs for motor homes.
The Phoenix-Talent School District operates the online academy to provide alternative distance learning for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The district is working with TMC, which has offered a number of Rise Up and Rebuild workshops to build the necessary items from the fire.
Six students from the college’s academy are enrolled in the elective class, a pilot project to provide more in-person learning. The class meets for six weeks from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.
Last Thursday, the students received instructions on how to cut 2 by 6s to make legs for picnic tables.
“Children are learning so many different things — developing skills, applied math, collaboration,” said Robyn Janssen, community engagement coordinator for TMC. They also feel a sense of purpose by contributing to the community, she added.
After the geometry quiz, Tamler explained miter cuts and compound miter cuts before saying, “Let’s build a picnic table.”
“We want all of these legs to be the same size,” said instructor Katie Buttermore. “We will work as a team to make sure everyone is the same size.”
Student Andrew Avalos was the first to make a chainsaw cut. He did well the first time, but Tamler showed him how to make an even neater cut.
“Here I learn new tools and how to use them,” said Avalos, an eighth-grader who lives in Medford. He worked wood with his father but, he admitted, “measurements are all new to me”.
Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Angelo Avalos makes a cut through a piece of wood for a picnic table at Talent Maker City.
Nicholas Pelleschi, an eighth-grader who lives near Talent, has experience with wooden building components for the chickens he raises. He turned a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood into chicken boxes at home.
“It’s a little different from a chicken box,” he said, inscribing lines on a board to make a picnic table leg.
“I’m having fun. I really like the class. It’s the best part of school,” Talent seventh grader Hayden Holcomb said. “It’s a break from the computer, and I can build Things.”
Academy middle school teacher Heather Ayers-Flood was on hand for the session to supervise and provide assessments. All workshop instructions are handled by TMC employees
“Once they start working, they’re on track and focused,” Ayers-Flood said. The students had perfect attendance until Thursday, when one of them called a patient with strep throat and expressed his regrets for missing class.
At the end of each session, Ayers-Flood does an assessment, asking questions that may incorporate math and other elements and giving students a writing assignment about the classroom experience.
Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Piper Tamler teaches students how to use a chop saw at Talent Maker City.
“It’s a good partnership with the school district,” said Tamler, who joined TMC full-time shortly after the Almeda fire.
In a first effort, the group produced more than 50 beds. Many more beds were made and TMC also made custom furniture for the displaced residents. Rotary clubs and other organizations have lent their support to furniture making, Tamler said.
“There are still families who are in transitional housing who don’t have a lot of items that were lost in the fire,” Janssen said.
Families in need can apply to TMC. Once the items are produced, TMC will deliver or recipients can pick them up. Items can go to people displaced by the fire, whether or not they are in the fire area. Most are going to families in transitional housing in the fire zone, Janssen said.
The academy grew out of the district’s efforts to offer remote learning when the pandemic emerged in the spring of 2020. Most classes are online, but there is in-person contact.
Besides Ayers-Flood, there are teachers for grades K-2 and 3-5 in the academy. Aaron Santi is unit manager. The academy has its own classroom located at Phoenix Elementary School. There are approximately 60 students currently enrolled at the academy.
Ayers-Flood is available in the classroom to help students with English, math, and other academics at scheduled times. Because the academy is part of the school district, students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports and clubs. Students do not have to be from the Phoenix-Talent School District.
Some students and parents are using academy classes to supplement homeschooling efforts, Ayers-Flood said.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]