ECHO - Hidden under protective gear and a welder's mask in the metal shop at E.C.H.O. Charter School, high school student Taneka Chege focused on strips of scrap set out on the workbench.
"I'm working on a T-weld and a corner weld," Chege said during a pause in her work.
However, Chege's assignment wasn't just for regular metal shop class. They were prerequisites for a sculpture project. Around the shop, her classmates in E.C.H.O. Charter's new metal arts class were working on their own projects, everything from abstract sculptures to model vehicles. Chege said she was still thinking about what she wanted to build.
Photo by Deb Gau
Cody Graham used his love of music as inspiration for his sculpture, with a model of an electric guitar.
"I want to do something that represents me," she said.
Bruce Anderson, shop teacher at E.C.H.O. Charter, said the metal arts class was offered for the first time in the fall semester. The class started as another opportunity for students to meet their arts requirements for graduation. Not everyone is inclined to draw, or take up band or choir, Anderson said.
The idea was a hit among the students.
"I had thought about looking into welding, maybe for college," said student Jimmy Cunningham. It was good to be able to get some experience while he was still in high school, he said.
Students Tanner Peterson and Austin Varpness said they liked getting to work with their hands.
"(The class) goes a lot faster, and you don't have to write anything down," Peterson said.
Before students start work on their own art projects, Anderson said, they first have to demonstrate proficiency with the metal shop equipment, including the welding torch and the plasma cutter. Meanwhile, art teacher Pam Williams teaches the class about design principles, and was on hand to offer advice as students painted some of the more finished projects on Monday morning.
Abe Faugstad was in the middle of painting metal cutouts of the state of Minnesota and the Vikings mascot, which will become part of a football tribute.
"At first I was going to make just the Minnesota outline and have all the Minnesota teams," Faugstad said, but as the project developed, that didn't work out. Now he was focused on a simpler "Home of the Vikings" design.
The class recycles pieces of scrap from Maasch Metal in Vesta for use in the classroom, which is a big help in offering the class, Anderson said. Students did Internet research to look for project ideas, or just used their own imaginations. John Parsons was putting together a sculpture made to look like tree-covered mountains and a full moon. Parsons said he got the moon's silver surface by using a grinder.
"You just have to go up and down until it gets shiny," he said.
Before moving to Minnesota, Parsons said, he attended a school that didn't offer metal shop. "I wanted to give it a try," he said. Now he's glad he did.
Other students in the class felt the same way.
Cody Graham showed off his sculpture, a mock-up of an electric guitar.
"It's pretty sweet," Graham said of the class. "It's a new medium to work with."