In March, a two-bill legislative package that would modify the Michigan Merit Curriculum was presented to the House Education Committee. The new wrinkle would provide more flexibility for high school students to pursue vocational training in the classroom.
ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano went to one school that is already ahead of the curve.
Kevin Bell has been teaching industrial education for the past 22 years. But it wasn’t until recently that he became a certified welder at Northern Michigan University, allowing him to teach a vocational education class in the same discipline.
“Negaunee has always had a really good industrial arts program. The tradition that we’ve had here, we’re trying to keep that going,” noted Bell.
Bell is a Negaunee graduate himself. He was inspired by his predecessor’s ability to immerse students in the topic by handing over the reigns; something he strives to emulate in every lesson plan.
“Not very often will I lecture very long. It’s more hands on where they go from the classroom into the lab setting and actually do what we’ve talked about,” Bell added.
And students end up doing a lot, which keeps them hungry for more.
“Being able to do something with your hands and being able to work with different tools and not just reading out of a book to take notes, it’s nice to be able to do different things like that,” remarked Jeremy Bell, a Junior in his third year with the Industrial Arts Program.
Like working in conjunction with the school’s Leadership Program to visit jobs in the real world.
“People are telling us what they do on a daily basis. What interests people have in the community and how we can continue to help people in different ways,” added Jeremy, a member of the school’s Leadership Program.
One venture that incorporated their welding ability was the grind rail project for this past winter’s Downtown Rail Jam.
“They gave us the metal for it. We designed the angles, cut the angles, and welded it together. It was nice to see that our work paid off and helped other people to have a fun time,” Jeremy beamed.
The welding program fosters those types of creative, yet practical, endeavors.
“We promote that. If a kid has something on his truck, like a bumper or something he wants to get repaired, those are the hands on things that we’ll let them do,” Bell reiterated.
And in between those proactive projects, Bell implements welding coupons that hone students’ ability to bring designs to life through a guided lesson plan.
“He’ll give us a sheet of a drawing to make. We go ahead on our computerized drafting program and we draw it up. Then we can take the part down here and make it in the metal shop, and then you actually have a part in hand, so it’s pretty cool to actually see it all come together,” explained Keenan Gantz, a junior in his third year with the Industrial Arts Program.
It’s a far cry from the standardized education, where one size fits all. This gives students interested in the field a taste of what they’re day will be like, without having to go through hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars worth of red tape.
“There are a few that really want to. That’s their career. They want to be welders, but a lot of them will use it as a tool to get into something else. Like say an engineer student would be in my welding class to learn about how to fabricate and the process of that and they’d apply it towards that engineering degree then,” explained Bell.
Most importantly, it gives students the chance to see the connection between the classroom and the work they’ve poured themselves into.
“Especially geometry. Drawing the angles for different parts and everything. It ties hand and hand with this kind of stuff,” Gantz added.
“When you’re working in a book, you get an A on your paper or a sticker on your paper. It’s nice to be able to use something that you’ve made and see people appreciate what you’ve made,” finished Jeremy.
That appreciation goes far beyond the classroom. In part two of our look at vocational education, we’ll explore the CAD portion of the program and how it’s garnered Negaunee national attention.