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Making things happen at CraterWorks

Visiting the CraterWorks facility just off Highway 99 in Central Point, it might be difficult to recall that for years, the warehouse-style building on a near-acre of land was all but silent.

Friday, as is the case nearly every day at this point, the opposite was true.

“To see the students ... using the space, working with each other, working with the stewards, all of that coming to fruition as we had planned, is fantastic,” said Taneea Browning, executive director of nonprofit Direct Involvement Recreation Teaching, (D.I.R.T.), which manages the 17,000-square-foot makerspace.

“The hope that we had is now converting to fact,” Browning said. “It’s actually happening.”

The facility Friday was humming and full of students from Crater Academy of Health and Public Services, occupying nearly every corner to work on a variety of projects. It was the culmination of their “inter-session” class, a CAHPS-specific program with a nontraditional schedule. Students take one class per trimester, meeting only four times: the first three sessions for an hour each, and the last time for an entire Friday to finish their projects.

Tom Rambo, who brought the concept to CAHPS at the end of his first year as principal (he’s now in the middle of year two), was also at CraterWorks on Friday, helping guide the students with their woodworking projects.

“It’s a good way to spend a Friday,” he said. For the day, students traded textbooks and laptops for paintbrushes and sanders.

Rambo was principal at Jewett Elementary before he came to CAHPS, which may have planted the seeds for the inter-session concept. At Jewett, he worked with students on other hands-on programs in the elementary school’s makerspace.

At CAHPS, he said, “Our elective offerings were, I thought, pretty slim, especially in a five-period day. This was a way we could offer more to our students.”

It’s also an opportunity for teachers to express themselves beyond the classroom; Rambo encourages them to incorporate their own interests, hobbies and skills to offer a wide range of options to CAHPS students.

That’s how Melinda Heiner’s class also wound up at CraterWorks Friday, preparing the first meals ever to be made in the facility’s sparkling new commercial-grade kitchen.

“It’s awesome,” said Heiner, who teaches biology. Her students had spent their first few single-hour meetings this trimester learning knife safety and preparing ingredient lists for the recipes they would cook in early February.

The Sloppy Joe casseroles and the recipes of their choice that they cooked were going to travel home with them, and to a few selected families in need, and eaten at another time.

“Especially in the winter, it’s great to just go to your freezer and pull out a couple of things that you’ve already prepped,” Heiner said over the sizzle of bell peppers and butter on the stove.

Katelyn Gailey, a junior, said she appreciated the chance to better understand how to prepare healthful meals and shop for ingredients beforehand.

“I think it’s an important skill to learn,” she said.

The groups working at CraterWorks Friday ranged in grade level, gender and interests. Some were in general education, while a few were part of special education programs.

For some students, their finished products would remain in the Central Point School District.

Dominic Hanson and Matthew Medina spent the morning constructing what Rambo called adjustable tabletops, which will go back into school offices and a special education class.

They can adjust to serve a variety of purposes, Rambo said.

“I could sleep on ‘em,” Hanson joked.

Both Hanson and Medina said they appreciated the chance to build useful things that would serve students, using high-quality equipment.

“It’s awesome,” Medina said, “because most people don’t have access to this stuff.”

Another group under Rambo’s supervision worked on cornhole boards, including staining and painting the wooden panels. The game boards will find a new home at Jewett Elementary, which paid for the supplies.

“Getting to come here and work on a project for smaller kids is pretty cool, like you’re giving to them, giving to the community,” said Taylor Molnar, a freshman.

That fits with a theme designed into CraterWorks, as well: owned by the school district, operated by D.I.R.T., but open to community members and events including Saturday markets and the Oregon Cheese Festival.

Browning said those relationships make the work even more rewarding for Central Point students using the space.

“That connection, that relationship, when they made that, they all got more excited,” she said. “Whatever it is, when they see that personal impact to the community that they’re having, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneBrian Pike helps Crater senior Mathew Medina form the edge of a table at CraterWorks in Central Point Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribunePrincipal Tom Rambo helps Crater High students build a table at CraterWorks in Central Point Friday.