[slideshow_deploy id=’8083′]When TwispWorks took over the 6.5 acre ranger station property in 2009, one of the community’s priorities for the campus was the development of vocational education programs for youth. These dreams have been realized through a partnership with the Methow Valley School District, who bring students to the campus for welding and carpentry classes.
Launched in 2011, the Liberty Bell High School Welding Lab at TwispWorks was the brainchild of local metal worker Barry Stromberger. Stromberger, who had taught welding at Liberty Bell previously, saw the old Forest Service road shop and was immediately inspired to restart the high school’s welding program. He collected funds and donated equipment from the community, convinced the school district to provide a very part-time salary, and quickly filled his 20-person class.
In the four years since, students in the welding lab have completed community projects ranging from fixing the grates on fire pits for the Forest Service, to building a large snowboard jump for the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. With the success of the welding program, TwispWorks reached out to Liberty Bell’s trades teacher Bob Wilson to see if other skills could be taught on the campus. Wilson was thrilled, and a three-year collaboration evolved that has involved dozens of students and helped renovate a historic warehouse.
Constructed by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew during the Great Depression, the “fire warehouse” served as the center for firefighting operations on the Twisp Ranger District for many decades. Though solidly built, the structure was never used year-round, and lacked heating systems or insulation. Beginning in 2012, students in Wilson’s Design Tech class worked with TwispWorks to create computer aided design (CAD) drawings showing the “as-built” conditions of the warehouse. TwispWorks was able to use these drawings for reference in cost-estimating the renovation.
The following year, two students tackled the design of a front deck for the building using the popular design program SketchUp Pro. TwispWorks project manager Tori Karpenko presented the students with a handful of key design challenges, then arranged for a local architect to work with the students to refine their designs.
During the 2014-2015 school year, a new Liberty Bell class – Careers in Construction – took on the actual construction of the student-designed deck, as well as other projects within the warehouse. The project was a major success, says Bob Wilson. “Not only do they learn hard skills in construction, they also learn workplace skills like teamwork, reliability, and safety. Anytime you have the school and the community collaborating to give students a hands-on learning opportunity, that is a winwin.” TwispWorks recently completed renovations on the building, which now houses KTRT “The Root” 97.5 FM, a ceramics studio, a print and book arts studio, and a flexible classroom space.
Both programs will continue in 2015-2016, though under new instruction, as both Stromberger and Wilson retired from their positions at the end of the school year. “We are thrilled that TwispWorks can serve as real-world classroom for local students,” said former TwispWorks Executive Director Amy Stork. “This is exactly the kind of partnership people wanted to see when the ranger station became TwispWorks.” Once complete, this three-year partnership will have given nearly 20 high school students a significant role in a real-world construction project, and serves as the pilot project for establishing an ongoing collaboration between the Methow Valley School District and TwispWorks to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for students