Industrial arts a practical education | Education

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DECATUR – It was once called the ’boutique’ class, and many boys remember making bookends and cutting boards that ended up being gifts for family members.

As the pressure started in college circles to prepare every student for college and high-stakes tests, shopping, home economics, and other life-skills classes found themselves sidelined and, at times. , completely deleted.

At Decatur’s two public high schools, industrial arts classes, as they are now called, still attract a good number of students, and Professor Ed Walton strives to prepare them where their ambitions take them. If they’re destined for college, Walton teaches them the skills to fix things around the house on their own.

“Right now we’re in residential wiring,” Walton said during a recent class, where students worked on training devices that allow them to learn how to wire outlets and switches. Others, not very advanced, were studying their books.

Students of all grades are in the same classroom, working at their own pace. “By the time I’m done with them, they’ll know how to operate an outlet, three-way switches, the kind of you walk in one door and turn it on and out through the other door and the turn off. It is a good basis for entering the business of electricity.

Walton gives his students daily verbal tests on the material and asks them what their daily mark should be. Most of them are honest and give themselves an appropriate mark, and if they don’t, Walton has the final say. By going through the material verbally and asking them questions from days or weeks before, Walton said, he makes sure the information is part of long-term memory and not just rote memorization.

“These electric books have purposes and skills,” Walton said. “I make them read, and we may or may not discuss it as a group, then they come and I ask them what Objective One is, then they come back and learn Objective Two, but before I ask them what “Goal Two is, I ask them Goal One. Constant review is important to make sure they’re really learning the material,” he said.

Not all students are destined for college, and the trades provide a very good standard of living for those who enjoy working with their hands and making and repairing things, Walton said. He wants to lay the foundation for these students like this.

Ben Sloan, a senior, wants to become an electrician. He hopes to get an internship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Robert Davis plans to go to college and study engineering, but to pay he plans to become an electrician. Even working part-time, he says, while he goes to college, the electrician trade pays well enough to allow him to complete his college education.

At Eisenhower, students also have access to metalworking tools. Brandon Vinson’s attendance and grades weren’t enough to be admitted to Heartland Technical Academy, and he came to Walton to ask if he could learn welding from him. Walton told him he had to prove himself by studying the book on his own and introducing himself, and Vinson, a senior, took on that challenge and did just that.

For some students, said Walton, being good at school is about finding their niche, and welding is Vinson’s. Her plan now is to study at Richland Community College after high school, then look for a job at a local factory.

“I think it’s a good learning experience,” said Vinson. “I feel like it’s something that I can do better and better, and the reason I chose it is that it pays off in the workplace. I was just looking at different things. It’s a lot of self-discipline that comes into play. ”

MacArthur High School’s metalworking tools were auctioned off during the high school’s renovation and refurbishment, so students could focus on their woodworking skills.

“My goal is to teach skills for a career,” Walton said. “The average age of the workforce (in these industries) is 60 and they are preparing to retire. This is an opportunity to get a good job, to work 30 years and to retire.

vwells@herald-review.com | (217) 421-7982


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