Brown Deer - When the Brown Deer baseball team takes the field in the spring, the Falcons will have brand new dugouts constructed by their classmates in the school's construction program.
Previously, the baseball team used benches from the football locker room that were positioned behind a fence. Unlike teams from other schools, they didn't have any shelter from the rain or sun. When Dave Lucre took over as varsity baseball coach in 2015, he submitted a request to the district to replace the dugouts, repair the often-dysfunctional scoreboard and make the scoreboard more visible by relocating it from the depths of center field to the near right field foul line.
The scoreboard was fixed last year, and for the last two months, students in Brown Deer's construction program have been working to build two new dugouts. The dugouts will even have a bench, so they won't have to borrow one from the locker room anymore.
The dugout project will cost roughly $5,000. The project was funded with donations from the baseball program, the youth baseball program, the athletic association and the education foundation.
"I really appreciate how everybody has embraced the renovation of our baseball facilities," Lucre said. "It's really been a nice combination of the school and the community working together."
Brown Deer's construction program consists of two year-long classes based on curriculum written by a consortium of trade unions known as Building2Learn. The first year of the Brown Deer construction program focuses on tool safety, math and some small projects. In the second year, the students take on semester-long projects like the dugouts. The spring semester project is to create a functioning half-bathroom, which includes a working toilet and sink.
The class has been working on the dugouts since the first day of school, and they are expected to have the structure finished by the winter. The dugout won't be painted until spring.
A contractor drilled the holes last spring, and this year, the class poured the concrete footings with help from the cement mason union. In August, they started setting posts for the top of the foundation, then they lifted long beams to set on top of the posts. Once the posts were set, they cut and set the rafters, installed the fascia and roof decking, and as of this week, started putting shingles on it. The dugouts will also have siding.
The project is a familiar one for construction teacher Craig Griffie, who has helped high school students build similar structures through the Appalachia Service Project
"These dugouts are a perfect teaching tool for these kids, because I get to teach roofing and not wreck somebody's house," Griffie said.
In addition to Griffie's expertise, the students are also being mentored by contractors from several different trade unions. Griffie said the opportunity to learn directly from trade professionals is invaluable for his students, many of whom plan to pursue a career in the skilled trades after graduation.
"There’s a real authenticity to the feedback that contractors are able to provide to the kids," he said. "The goal of the program is that when these kids graduate from high school, they will be fully confident in entering an apprenticeship program."
Brown Deer High School senior Gabie Bruner has taken both of the school's woodworking classes, and now she is working on the baseball dugout as part of the Construction II class. She has also constructed locker sets for the assistant principal, and is creating a library table through an independent study course. She plans to go into the carpentry field after she graduates in the spring.
Bruner said the skilled trades is a part of her family, since her dad is a plumber, her uncle is an operating engineer and another one of her uncles is a mechanic. Although the family history played a role in her enrolling in the class, she said she was ultimately nudged into the program by Griffie.
"I was planning on taking this for a fun hands-on class, but I ended up loving it," she said. "Now I'm going into the trades because of it."
Brown Deer High School senior Asher Rauch also learned about the skilled trades from his uncle and his father, so he was eager to take advantage of all
of the technical education programs available in Brown Deer. He said he likes learning new skills through the construction program.
"When you are doing a full construction, you're learning about each step of the building process," he said. "I never thought I would learn about roofing, for example."
Rauch plans to pursue a career in carpentry after graduation. He said he struggles with traditional classroom exercises, but he enjoys the active, hands-on nature of the construction program.
"The students in this class might not be able to show off in the advanced classroom courses, but we can succeed in this type of advanced class," he said. "Not many students get this far in classes like this."
The contractors that partnered in the project are Bob Anderson Builders, Allrite Remodeling, Bliffert Lumber, ABC Supply and Story Hill Renovations. The dugout project has also received donations of time and material from Badger Building Supply, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, and the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association.