December 14, 2011 - For Dick Moscovic, building trades instructor at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northwest, you can't learn construction without getting in the mud.
From left, Scott Evans, Our Lady of the Lakes; Eric Kaczor, Lake Orion; Dan Fitzgerald, Clarkston; and Nick VanLanduyt, Holly, work on the cabin. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
"There's no experience like going on site," said Moscovic, leading a log cabin building project at Hawk Woods Nature Center in Auburn Hills.
"They learn things here you can't in the classroom. On site experience is a needed primer for kids going into the industry. If you're going to do construction in Michigan, you'd better be able to deal with the elements."
"They're doing a great job," said Dan Brisson, manager of facilities and roads for the City of Auburn Hills. "It's pretty cool, they get to say they built a cedar log cabin. It's been fun, a learning experience for everybody."
This is the school's second cabin at the park – they built their first in 2009. They plan two more over the next couple years.
The cabin is part of Hawkwoods' campground facility, available for rent, May-October, to Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, church organizations, family reunions, and other groups and individuals.
"It's like going up north without the ride up north," Brisson said.
The cabin is not a kit. The students build it from rough-hewn cedar logs following a blueprint.
"The only thing conventional are the windows, doors, and roof sheeting," Brisson said.
Students spend the first year of the program at the center, learning math, language arts, and basic tools used in construction. They go onsite for hands-on experience.
They started in late September and will finish in January.
"I learned how to build just about anything out of wood, and techniques for how to do things quick, easy, and right, like holding a circular saw at an angle instead of straight on, things like that," said Eric Kaczor, Lake Orion senior.
When Lake Orion senior Gerald Morden started the program, he was apprehensive about using the saws and other power tools.
"I'm used to them now," Morden said. :I can use a nail gun like it was nothing."
"We get a lot more hands on experience," said Craig Powell, senior. "Some people can't learn just sitting at a desk. Here, I can learn what I need to know in my future career or just in my own house."
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.