Stephanie Bode, media center specialist at Dobson Elementary School, has always wanted a loft in the school’s library. She has done research online and found prototypes, but none were what she really wanted. Then, Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson recommended she try to incorporate the high schools into the project. The construction classes are usually busy, but Cathy White, instructional technology specialist at Surry Central High School, came up with the idea of making it part of a student’s senior graduation project. Bode jumped at the idea and was soon in contact with Ryan High, a junior at Surry Central.
High has since teamed up with Ricky White, who holds a general contracting license and is acting as his mentor, and built a loft that meets Bode’s exact needs. The free-standing structure will sit against one wall of the media center and will be a place for students to climb up, hunker down on a bean bag and read a book. Because High is building the loft, Bode was able to ask him to install Plexiglas around the walls so that instructors can see inside the loft from around the media center and keep an eye on students.
“We want them to be excited about reading and about books,” said Bode. “I’ll probably use it as a reward for students. It helps with the atmosphere we’re trying to create.”
The loft’s theme will revolve around the story of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” a children’s book that uses rhymes to teach the letters of the alphabet. Bode is in the process of painting a large tree which will extend up through the loft and will have the letters on its branches.
“The kids are really excited about it,” said Bode. “With the new schools opening, this gives them something new to have and to be excited about as well. It’s better than I would’ve hoped.”
When High, an alumnus of Dobson Elementary, first started the project, he knew very little about construction. He took a drafting class during his sophomore year but noted actually working on a project was different than what he experienced in class.
“I’ve pretty much learned how to do everything,” he said. “I took drafting last year, but there’s a big difference between drawing and actually putting it together. I like doing stuff like that. It’s a nice challenge to have to do something and put it together.”
High and White built most of the structure off-site and arrived at the school last week to begin setting it up and taking care of the finishing touches. It should be ready, complete with a new paint job and the “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” tree for students on the first day of school.
“In everything we do, we promote reading,” said Principal Jan Varney of the project, which has already been approved by the school system and the fire department. “This is authentic, it’s real life learning that involves the community. Anyone involved in this project will have a connection with Dobson Elementary forever.”
Varney said she is a proponent of the senior graduation projects for just that reason. The projects, which are not yet required by the state but are by Surry County Schools, require high school students to write a research paper, find a mentor in a field of interest for them, create a product in that field and make a presentation before a panel of judges in order to graduate.
“It is so gratifying to know that students are taking their senior graduation project seriously,” said Assistant Superintendent Pat Widdowson. “Not only are they fulfilling the project requirement, but they are giving back to their communities in various ways. Ryan High is just one great example of how students across our school district are getting involved to improve different community agencies.”
Contact Morgan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.