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Building Knowledge With Benches

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By: Heiatua Paredes

     This year’s middle school has been working on something to help the community. In the beginning of the year, the school introduced a new schedule. Every Friday the school day ends at 1:00 P.M. for state mandated teachers’ professional development. The middle school has been introduced to an an old program called Phoenix Time. This activity allows middle school students to choose and participate in a cross curricular/grade club for a school quarter. The first iteration of Phoenix Time included newspaper, bridge building, crafts, bench building, and poster design. I, along with a few friends, signed up for Mr. Silver’s bench building-class. While these classes were new, we were excited to start.

The club members were split into groups of three or fewer, and originally it was a design competition between the groups. We had to design a bench, come up with a cost estimate, and prepare a presentation with the hopes of one bench getting funded. The parameters were that the bench needed to be strong, safe, and, hopefully, inexpensive.

Designing the benches took some time. We went to the playground to find locations that provided a good view of the playground and fit our initial plans. Once we had measurements we could begin designing in earnest. Next we came up with blueprints and started pricing our benches. Using internet sources and our local lumberyard, limiting the amount of lumber waste, we came up with very accurate pricing. We were not finished yet though.

Creating presentations was the next order of business. Using Google Slides the groups created presentations that highlighted our bench’s design, affordability, and quality location. Personal pictures, scanned copies of our blueprints, and images from Google Earth allowed us to demonstrate the reasons for selecting and building our benches.

Finally, the big day arrived. We were to present to the Graceland Youth Outreach Team. Three groups came up with bench designs: Javin Evans and Hagen Phelps, a wrap around tree bench; Addy Lindgren and Heiatua Paredes, a convertible picnic table/ bench; and Cameron Martin, Darian Brielle, and Lilly Parsons, a storage bench. The presentations went well and, much to our surprise, the Youth Outreach representatives, Shirley Kessel, Tom Morain, and Shannon Harris, agreed to fund all three benches!

After the good news we got down to building with each design team taking the lead on building their bench. All the other members, which were Jesse Niebauer, Kade Nowlin, Brayden Olson, Jack Greenwood, Matthew Patience, and Braeden Boswell, helped build the three benches. Mr. Silver also helped build the benches, and he was there to make sure we knew what they were doing, reviewed what each of the tools do, and ensured we worked safely in the shop.

After about a month of building, we finished the benches, which you can find on the Lamoni School’s playground for you and your family to enjoy. The middle schoolers thanked Mr. Silver, who came up with the idea of a bench-making club. We helped the community, learned many new skills, and bonded together. A special thank you goes to the Graceland Youth Outreach Team, who, through the Dekko Foundation, gave us the grants to build our benches, and the school for allowing them to build the benches. It means a lot to the community as well as the members of the club to see their ideas and designs come to life. Phoenix Time is a success, and I cannot wait to see what other new skills and interest we will discover in the future.