A little imagination, planning and patience is all it takes to bring an inanimate pile of kiln fired clay to life in the hands of a master like Ali Patton and his students.
Patton wanted to come up with something fun to build for his masonry students at the Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center before they left on Christmas break. They spent most of December and a couple of weeks in November turning approximately 800 bricks into a couple of snowmen, a Christmas tree and some planters.
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“I wanted to do something related to the holiday season and Christmas,” Patton, a first year teacher at the Tech. center said. “I came up with the concepts and helped them with the foundations, and the kids finished the work.”
The sonwman's hat isn't magic, and even if it wasn't stuck to the floor with mortar, it would take a forklift to make him dance around, but the kids had a blast with him anyway, Patton said.
“It's amazing what you can do with a brick,” Patton said.
He should know. Patton learned the trade from his father and brother on construction sites working along side them.
“I was going out on job sites since I was 11 or 12 years old,” he recalled.
Now 31, Patton landed the position teaching the next generation how to lay bricks after working as tutor with the York School district. It was an easy transition from the job site to the classroom he said, because a construction site can be a large learning lab of sorts as younger workers pick up tips and tricks from the veterans.
“In the construction world you have to meet deadline too, just like in class,” he added. “Here it is more like coaching though.”
Though some of the students are more advanced than others and there are multiple levels of classes, Patton started the 20 students in his class working on the basics. They had a little outside help as well, he said.
Construction teacher Robin Hogue helped the masonry students with wood forms for the different levels of the snowmen while they were working, and marketing teacher Ginger Hill helped them decorate the creations once they were finished.
The projects aren' permanent though. Patton said they would likely be dismantled by the class sometime after classes resume in January.
“Being practice mortar, we take them down brick by brick,” Patton said. “We recycle.”
He's thinking about his next project for students already.
“I may do a project around Easter,” he said.
He's also starting to think about next Christmas, and how he'll top this year's display.
“We'll make it bigger and better,” he said. “It's pretty much hands on, we just go out and do it.”