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Students get credit for skateboard bench

VERGENNES –– Fourteen-year-old Damian Bougor knew the Vergennes skate park needed seating and decided to do something about it.
“I go there every day and we just needed something to sit on after we’re done skating, so I figured we needed a bench,” he said.
His friend Ian Shalek took the idea further and suggested a bench made out of skateboards.
Bougor, Shalek and Grace Chamberlain, all VUHS rising freshmen, designed and built a bench last month using wood and broken skateboards as part of the school’s Summer Adventures in Learning, or SAIL, program. The three participated in the Planning with Students session called Performance-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGR), which was taught by teacher-leader Ed Cook.
This fall VUHS will implement the PBGR program with the incoming class of 2016. In their first year of high school, freshmen must complete three PBGR tasks. The summer program allows students to get an early start on that, explained SAIL co-director Jill Strube.
“We offered this pilot class so kids who are going to be in ninth grade this year could get a taste of what PBGR is all about,” she said. “We decided to make it a community service-based PBGR and offer an opportunity for the kids who are going to be in ninth grade to come and complete one of their three PBGR tasks this summer to get a jump on it.”
Seven students enrolled in the program; four chose individual projects and three worked together on the bench.
The program had several components, Strube said.
“Part of the PBGR task was to plan the project, to actually complete the project, and then they all did a PowerPoint (presentation) on what their project involved and wrote a reflection piece about what they did, how they did it, what they thought about the process, how PBGR fits into what they’re going to be doing as they go through their next four years,” she said.
Strube explained that the kids drove most of the work in the class.
“This was kid-directed,” she said. “Ed Cook, who’s also the P.E. and health teacher, is handy with power tools, so he was able to bring in a saw and help the kids with some of the construction elements. The kids did all the work. We took them down into the shop at the school and they did the cutting and the bolting.”
Chamberlain, a Ferrisburgh resident, described their work.
“We had to find a design and figure out what we were going to do and go online and figure out what we were going to buy and how much it would cost,” she said. “It was a little harder than we thought, but we did it.”
Bougor liked the practicality of what he learned.
“It was hands-on; you can work with other people,” he said.
In addition to the hands-on learning, the students worked on their PowerPoints and reflection papers. They also gave presentations.
“The last day of the SAIL program they actually presented, to a bigger group, their projects,” Strube said. “Each student talked about their project, showed the PowerPoint and read their essay to an audience. Another part of PBGR is going to be doing that, showing what you’ve done and demonstrating your abilities.”
Bougor described his slideshow and essay, which will end up in a portfolio with other PBGR work that he does throughout high school.
“I did my PowerPoint about the bench and I also built a ramp,” he said. “I explained how long it took, what we needed. The reflection was hard to do. I talked about the ramp, how fun it was being in that class. It was the first time this year that anyone’s had it. It was mostly about how good the class was and how we should do it next year.”
Chamberlain also liked her first experience with PBGR.
“I feel like it’s helpful and you get to have fun with it,” she said.
Strube noted the students’ devotion to the project and to their learning, which, she said, is a key piece of PBGR.
“I was really impressed by the enthusiasm for the projects by the kids,” she said. “They were all focused, they were all really into what they were doing because they chose it. It wasn’t a worksheet that someone handed them, it was something they wanted to do.”
The bench is now in the skate park and, according to Chamberlain, it has been getting good reviews.
“They use it all the time, and I’ve used it,” she said. “They said it’s a savior because you don’t have to sit on the ramp and it’s a nice cool spot in the shade.”
Overall, Chamberlain thoroughly enjoyed her experience at the program.
“It was probably one of the best things to do over the summer,” she said.

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