Gone are the days of industrial arts education where cute little wooden crafts were the result of 50 minutes of instruction for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Instead of skillfully crafted wooden stools and napkin holders, students at Corkran Middle are bringing home their high-tech handiwork -- computer-generated stationary, posters and silk-screens for T-shirt iron-ons.
Before the 12 weeks of communication technology study is over, they also will have produced their own 30-second commercials with animated credits and three-minute radio programs, and photographed and developed their own pictures using 35mm cameras.
Joe Sheya is as excited about the high-tech toys as his seventh- and eighth-grade students, who work in their assigned areas while he moves from section to section, peeping over shoulders to make sure all is well.
"It looks like madness, but everything is working as it should," Sheya said. "It just gets a little loud."
Seventh-grader Keisha Greene doesn't mind the atmosphere a bit as she tries to figure out a new computer program.
"Mr. Sheya, I need you," Keisha calls out. But by the time he gets to her, classmates already have intervened. Even that is not surprising; students are not only graded on the quality of their work, but also on their level of cooperation.
The first two weeks of the course is spent in a lecture setting.
Students are then divided into four groups for two-week rotations at each learning station.
Each group has a leader, who monitors behavior, and a clerk, who checks attendance and maintains payroll records. A successful week of work means a $100 (pretend) paycheck. Bonuses are added when students offer a helping hand, but they may also be docked $5 to $10 for misbehavior. Fines of $20 or more means the student is fired for the day, and gets no pay.
"I'm very fortunate," Sheya says. "I have a principal (Richard Kubatko) who is very supportive and is not telling me what to do, but asks what I need."
That included $40,000 to install new equipment, replacing what was stolen when the school was closed for asbestos removal last year.
A new radio production station was just added at a cost of $2,500.
Students will learn to mix records and act as disc jockeys. But Sheya doesn't plan to end there. He is hoping to get a CD player, to keep up with the radio industry, and eventually wire the school for student broadcast productions.
Sheya was on the committee that revised the Industrial Arts curriculum for middle schools. He says such an updated curriculum -- which eventually will be part of the course offerings at all 17 county middle schools -- was desperately needed to expose students to future career opportunities.
"This is like a taste of everything," he said. "Before, making something artsy-craftsy was sufficient. They need to know how things work on a day-to-day basis.
"Communication carries over into every aspect of life. Now when they watch the Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles, they have some idea of how it was created. Or when they open a book, they know the process to make it. They understand how it started on paper, printed and designed."
Sheya admits that some of his students are a little ahead of him when it comes to computers. He occasionally has gotten assistance from advanced students and is figuring out how to use the Metrologic Neon Laser machine used for producing three-dimensional hologram images. Eighth-graders and advanced students also will be involved in using computer-controlled Lego construction sets.
"It's a popular course," Sheya said. "They keep coming back."