Eagle project teaches key skills to students
BRISTOL — The idea to sculpt an eagle from copper, steel, brass and other materials hatched at Mount Abraham Union middle and high school in 2009.
Last week, some of the more than 30 students who helped create the image of Mount Abe’s school mascot capped the two-year effort by unveiling the proud bird, now perched atop the school’s main entrance.
“What these students have done is awe inspiring,” said Jim Brown, a technology arts teacher and project organizer.
The concept evolved from Brown’s senior advisory class in the spring of 2009. But although these seniors laid the egg, it wasn’t until the following fall that Brown’s new freshman advisory class helped it take flight. The freshman organized the project and presented it to the school’s community council, which oversees decisions that could affect the entire school.
The project was to be funded completely with donations and built outside of class time.
“It was no cost to the school and no cost to the taxpayers,” said Brown, who said that Bristol Friends of the Arts’ $500 donation was a huge help.
The community council overwhelmingly approved the undertaking, and council member Sam Daniels — then in seventh grade and now in ninth — was so enthused by the prospect that he helped from the get-go. Local artist Reed Prescott acted as design lead and Lincoln welder Chuck Norton taught the students some welding basics, but it was the students who did most of the work.
“We were the ones who were controlling what goes where and how to do it … I thought it went really well for a group of kids to go out and do something like that.” said eighth-grader Dustin Emmons, who labored over the project almost weekly during the last year.
In the project’s first year, the students mainly worked on the nest using copper tubing and rebar. It wasn’t until a group of dedicated seventh- and eighth-graders took up the reins during the 2010-2011 school year that the eagle really began to take off.
The 3.5-foot-high body frame and 8.5-foot-long ridge for the wingspan were welded together. Steel feathers were cut using a plasma cutter — a light saber-like tool used to cut metal — and then-seventh-grader Wyatt Lossmann honed his TIG welding skills for weeks before working on the eagle’s stainless steal head. TIG, or Tungsten Inert Gas, welding allows craftsmen to fuse a wide variety of metals and alloys.
The students finally put the brass beak on the eagle’s head this past Aug. 27, and the project was finally finished.
Along the way the students enhanced numerous skills and learned some life lessons.
Lossmann’s new welding skills helped his family build jack brackets so that his dad could repair the sills of the family home. Emmons, who wants to someday open his own mechanic shop, said, “ I definitely had to learn those skills working on the Eagle to do what I want to do.”
And Ross Norton, welder Chuck Norton’s son, might have learned the biggest lesson of them all.
“I learned that if you put a lot into something it can turn into something really great,” he said.
So what’s next for the young team of mechanically inclined artists?
They are working on five eaglets to put in the nest to represent each of the five towns whose students come to roost at Mount Abe.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].
Helping the eagle soar
These Mount Abe students participated in the building of the eagle sculpture that adorns the entry into school building. Students that worked on the project but did not sign in are not listed.
The Mount Abe students who presented the idea to community council:
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