For Penn Manor High School students and staff, the $99.9 million school renovation and construction project that began this past year spurred parking restrictions, relocated classrooms and the constant din of heavy equipment across campus.
But due to a partnership between Warfel Construction and the school district, the project also provided opportunities for students to learn about real-world math, engineering and design applications, study the life cycle of trees and explore career options in the construction field, according to a news release.
Math students learned how construction workers and surveyors use trigonometry and algebra in the field. Agricultural mechanics students learned about the inner workings of a temporary ag shop as it was being built, and plant science students examined the rings of a tree cut down as part of the project.
Warfel also established an internship that enabled one student to attend weekly construction meetings and visit on-site work. Groups of students toured the construction site and learned about the excavating, plumbing, drywall, technology and other trades represented by the workers they observed.
“When there’s a construction site in your backyard, you take advantage of the valuable career exploration for your students,” support and transition teacher Michelle Wagner said in the release. “This fits into our goal of transition and preparing students for life after high school.”
Staff from Warfel and Boro Construction, the electrical contractor on the project, visited three of math teacher Gary Luft’s classes in April and May.
“The students were given an overview and the phasing of the total construction project, as well as an explanation of what was currently being done on site,” Luft said. “I think it was very beneficial for the students to hear from the experts in the field.”
As part of a “Tree of Life’’ lab, Meagan Slates’ plant science students examined the remains of a giant tree cut down during construction. They counted the tree stump’s growth rings to estimate the age of the tree, which was more than 50 years. They compared it to the tree they were studying in the lab.
“What is cool about this lab is that we had climate data from the Pacific Northwest that dated back to 1960 from the original lab we were working on, so we were able to use that data and the tree that was removed to estimate the growing season here in Pennsylvania,” Slates said.
The interactions were designed to help “demystify” the construction field, Warfel project engineer Kevin McGuire said.
Penn Manor is partnering with Warfel to host a “Careers in Construction Exploration Event” that includes a tour of the project and information about construction careers Sept. 14. It is open to all students in grades seven through 12.
McGuire said he hopes to continue the collaboration as the construction project progresses over the next two years.
“We want to involve the students and then turn that into a discussion about what they plan to do in the future. What’s going on outside the window, and how could that involve you?” he said. “We need more conversations like that in the education field.”