Mason Middle School updates stimulate student growth

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By Micaela Colonna
Mason Times staff writer

Tom Bullock, Mason Middle School's technology education instructor, demonstrates how the CNC machine can cut any image out of metal.

Tom Bullock, Mason Middle School’s technology education instructor, demonstrates how the CNC machine can cut any image out of metal.

The Mason Board of Education met Monday, March 10, at Mason Middle School to discuss changes to the building’s appearance, as well as recent advances in the classroom. The meeting included updated curricula information and a school tour by Principal Dan McConeghy.

Updates have appeared in Jake Lator’s classroom. The Mason seventh and eighth grade math teacher has incorporated Response to Intervention, a learning approach to help struggling students, as well as iPads and BuzzMath into his lectures to help stimulate an eagerness to learn. McConeghy said he believes using this 21st century technology will pique student interest in mathematics.

“You put technology in front of the kids that they use nowadays, and they get very excited,” McConeghy said. “There are so many kids that come out of his class that say math is their favorite subject now.”

Innovative approaches to learning are also being incorporated into the middle school’s technology education classes. Tom Bullock, a technology education instructor, teaches woodworking, metalworking and robotics to seventh and eighth grade students. His classes provide a hands-on learning opportunity for students who struggle with the core classes, helping them to become more prepared for high school and the real world.

“My class is something so different and off-the-wall,” Bullock said. “But real enough that my students can identify with it and find value in it. And for me to see a D or E student bring their grade up to a C in a math class because it relates to my class or because they want to do this for a living, I think that is the most rewarding.”

Bullock’s classroom has also had renovations with the recent installation of the latest tools and technology purchased with a Dart Foundation grant. VCarve Pro, a program downloaded on every computer, allows students to create any image and transfer it to the computer numerical control (CNC) machine. The machine then cuts the image out of wood or metal.

“You find an image you like, and the software traces the image on a bitmap,” Bullock said. “And this is where the training comes in. Students know how to edit their piece and the CNC machine will then cut along the image’s perimeter.”

The school is also purchasing small tools and other items that can be transported to the elementary schools for STEM or industrial technology days. The goal is to introduce young students to industry-based learning and encourage female interest in engineering.

The next project for the technology education classes is a sandblast cabinet and a powder coat system for advanced painting. McConeghy is pleased with the recent upgrades to Bullock’s class and sees endless benefits for students.

“The traditional ‘I’m going to make a birdhouse’ is still there, and how you do it is still there,” McConeghy said. “But the whole process is evolving now. Kids nowadays move from thing to thing so fast that you have to provide opportunities for them in classes.”

By the end of the school year, Mason Middle School hopes to implement other small changes to the building’s internal appearance. This includes displaying pictures of students on the walls, adding a trophy case in the main hallway to feature various school departments and the return of the school store.

Teacher Librarian Anne Hudgins has taught at the middle school for 20 years. She thinks the changes are very positive, but she hopes the students and staff realize the value and importance of education itself.

“Education is so important for opening doors for kids, no matter their socioeconomic or family situation,” Hudgins said. “Education is the key, and kids have to have the opportunity to become educated and take advantage of it.”

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