Students Learning Tools of the Trades at DCHS

Students Learning Tools of the Trades at Douglas County High School
Posted on 05/15/2024

Measure twice, cut once. That’s one of the takeaways students learn through the Building Materials class led by teacher Curtis Hanock at Douglas County High School (DCHS).

The elective class is for those who want to learn hands-on, do-it-yourself skills that they can apply right away and will save them time and money in the future when they tackle repairs or make home improvements. 

This is Hanock’s second year teaching the class and he’s incorporating more hands-on learning into the curriculum, with less PowerPoint, textbooks, and lectures. The quote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn,” is well at work here.

“Students are learning about the materials we use to build structures, homes, and even buildings,” said Hanock. 

Student installing tile in the classroom“We started our tile installation unit by learning how ceramic and porcelain tile is made, as well as where marble comes from and how it's manufactured before arriving to the customer,” he said.

As you might expect, Hanock is resourceful. He posted a request for pieces of tile on the social media app NextDoor, and the community delivered in a big way. 

Students are using those donated tiles to install new flooring in a small room in the shop. Half of the room will have a tile floor, the other half will have laminate flooring. Mixing thin-set or tile mortar with water to get the right consistency, spreading the adhesive with a trough, and laying pieces of tile in a pattern comes easier with practice.

Chicken coop built by studentsHanock also teaches woodworking and carpentry classes. Looking forward, Hanock hopes to offer students the opportunity to install a new roof on one of the school storage areas, build a deck, frame some walls, lay hardwood floors, and install electrical receptacles in the learning lab building.

So far, the carpentry students have built a greenhouse and chicken coops. They are selling their works and the proceeds will go to support future industrial arts projects at DCHS. The students are also building a free-standing cabinet for Castle View High School’s DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) club. DECA students use the cabinet to sell their merchandise, products, and refreshments.

DCHS is removing its 60-year-old gymnasium floor, which was damaged due to a water leak. Hanock rescued some of the planks for his students to upcycle, reuse, and repurpose the materials.

“We’re reusing the hardwood maple gym flooring to make birdhouses and plaques. Imagine having an item built from the historic gym floor where so many athletic events, award ceremonies, and dances took place,” said Hanock.

Freshman Finley McCann said, “It’s pretty cool learning to do stuff.” Finley has passed all of her safety tests, including the general shop safety test, and she’s learning how to use all of the equipment. 

“It's great having young women in this class. I think it's crucial for all youth to take career tech education courses to build individual resilience, self-confidence, and problem-solving skills. My wife, who is also an educator, credits her father's encouragement, as well as her high school and college teachers, for fostering opportunities to build, fix, and repair things instead of relying on others,” said Hanock. 

Student working in the shop classStudents in Hanock’s classes receive a hands-on demonstration of each major tool and machine in the shop. These presentations help students operate these safely and efficiently. To support differentiated learning styles and help students be more successful learners, Hancock created modules where they can review key points and watch tutorials from professionals in the field on the safe and effective use of each of the tools or machines.  

When asked why he decided to take this class, Logan Adams, a sophomore, said, “It’s hands-on stuff, the stuff I like to do. I’m thinking about welding as something I might pursue.”

Levi Burkhart, also a sophomore said, “It’s not sitting at a desk. I like the idea of hands-on learning.”

Hanock says whatever your interest is, trades can offer a positive outlet. For those who enjoy woodworking, it’s a wonderful life-long hobby and can be a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health.

On a recent visit to Home Depot, Hanock ran into former students Jake and Joe Archuleta. The two brothers now own Longhorn Fence LLC. They credit their success and career readiness skills to what they learned at DCHS.  

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