I never recall much from the first day of school, everything is so chaotic! Bumping into people who seem to have grown at least 2 feet since last year, trying to find a class that simply does not want to be found, coming up with a plausible excuse as to why my summer assignment is not yet finished, its all a bit overwhelming when you’ve come from an amazing summer of sunny, care-free beach days! I do however recall that I knew exactly where to find the engineering class. Not that it really counts as a classroom per-say, it’s more of a large complex the size of 3 classrooms, filled with outlandish machinery atypical to the everyday high school classroom. Inside there are various work tables centered around alarming and loud metal blades. Strewn amongst the work tables and menacing metal machinery are various projects in different stages of repair/completion- in one corner a wine barrel, a wooden spoon that looks like a tree here, a playhouse castle over there- it’s almost like walking through an artist’s loft. Everything in the class is always so interesting and such a clear reflection of the creator.
One thing I love about this class is that it combines creativity and practicality. The class doesn’t simply focus on art nor does it focus on simply creating a means to an end. It combines the two, giving the builder the freedom to create what they wish. In the first few weeks of school, we were all given a rather unremarkable looking block of wood and told to make a spoon out of it. I admit I was skeptical of the plausibility of this project, but once Ms. Oropallo pulled out examples from previous students, my excitement started growing. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with self-sufficiency. I enjoy crafts and painting, like most 8 year-olds I brought my parents a never ending stream of severely mis-proportioned butterfly paintings and atrocious self portraits. I also had interests in knitting, sewing, gardening, pottery, candle making, weaving, and cooking. The idea of creating everything you need for yourself is strongly appealing to me not because of the independence factor, but because everything you make is strictly conformed and endemic to you personally. Everything you create is a reflection of you as a person; your mood that day, your beliefs, your dreams, they are all reflected in what you choose to design or build or paint. I only wish I had been introduced to engineering at a younger age!
I think this class is an especially important class for girls to take. At least in my case, neither my mom, nor my sister, nor I really know how to fix anything in our house. Whenever something decides to rebel against us and starts malfunctioning or beeping mysteriously, we all rely on my dad to repair said malfunction. I may not be a full on handy-man capable of fixing anything (yet!) that decides to break down on me, but at least I now know how to use a drill. I now know the basic structure of my walls and how far apart the studs are placed so I won’t accidentally nail something into the plumbing or electrical wiring. Now at least I’m not completely helpless when it comes to building, I can rely on myself, which as previously stated, I regard as an important attribute.
I also love Ms. Oropallo’s form of teaching. Not only is everything hands on- I can count on one hand the number of times we have had a lecture class- but there really aren’t any restrictions. School curriculum in general is very rigid, even in the more creative classes, everything is graded with a criteria of what a project needs to look like or what it’s lacking. In engineering, you have a basic idea of what you need to build and a rough structural outline of how to make it, but the rest is up to you. If you want to create a particular design, Ms. O will tell you the steps you need to perform to complete it. She won’t dismiss your design simply because she thinks you’re incapable, she’ll work with you and help you. Like with our chicken coop projects. Our main project this year is to build chicken coops out of recycled wood. Each of us were put into groups of 3-4 and we were tasked with building a chicken coup. Even though our coops are nowhere near completion, I can already tell how different and amazing all of our coops are going to be. Each team member brings something unique and invaluable to the design of the coop, and while we all add our own unique touches, the coups are also a reflection of each group as a whole and their collective ideas and traits. I’m in a group with Sophia, Katie, and Natasha. The going was slow at first, there was much speculation about measuring and making sure our coup was perfect. Yet over the next few weeks as we got better at managing the various selection of tools we have at our disposal, we have been accomplishing more. We are now working on siding with pallet boards and our egg box (the outside of the coup and where the chickens lay their eggs). I’d say that this class has been both a highlight of my academic week and a powerful learning experience, I can’t wait to see what the final products will look like!