Glenwood Elementary pupils get front-row view of construction |

Glenwood Elementary pupils get front-row view of construction

When it comes to experiential learning, it would be hard to find a more real-life experience than what Glenwood Springs Elementary School students are being exposed to this school year.

Students celebrated on the final day before the holiday break Friday with a “topping out” party for the new school building that’s going up in their backyard.

Topping out is a builders’ rite of Scandinavian descent signifying the stage of a building project when the last beam is placed on top, thus completing the basic shell of a new structure, Principal Audrey Hazleton explained before an all-school assembly.

In strict tradition, a tree is often placed upon the beam as a way to appease the tree-dwelling spirits that were displaced with the construction, and to say “thank you,” she said.

The GSES ceremony did not involve a tree or the traditional “roof shout” that go along with the tradition, but the students did give a loud “Grizzly cheer” before lining up for a tour of the newly erected shell of a building.

GSES is in the middle of a $29 million building addition and renovation project that will ultimately become the new and improved facility for the expeditionary learning school, which serves preschoolers through fifth-graders.

Fifth-grade crew team members donned hard hats and pointed out the different parts of the new building to the younger students, including the new first-grade classrooms that will accommodate this year’s kindergartners when the new building opens for the 2017-18 school year.

Fifth-graders Cesar Torres and Mackenzie Hughes said they will miss not being able to enjoy the new building when they move on to middle school next year. But watching its progress has been interesting, they said.

“It’s pretty loud with the construction, and sometimes we can’t concentrate, but for the most part it’s OK,” Cesar said. “I like how it’s going to be bigger and have more space for everybody in the school.”

Mackenzie said the construction can be a little distracting during recess and when she’s doing her morning safety patrol shift.

“It’s also fun for the kindergartners and first-graders to look out the window and see what’s going on,” she said. “I like that it’s really modern and has a lot of cool features.”

Last week, some of the kindergarten students were learning about compassion and noticed the construction workers outside working hard in the cold. So they made signs to put in the windows of the old building where the workers could see them, thanking them for their efforts.

“They also brought them hot chocolate and sang Christmas carols to them in their job trailer,” said Kelsy Been, Roaring Fork School District public information officer.

Hazleton said it’s been challenging to hold school right next to a construction zone, but overall it’s gone pretty well.

“We were fortunate to be able to keep the annex building during the construction, so we can keep as many classes there as possible,” she said. “The teachers have also been flexible, even though some will have to move three times. We’ve pretty much figured out how to use every corner of the old building this year.”

Educationally, it’s been great for the students to learn how a real-life construction project comes together, Hazleton said.

“It’s a lot of fun and a real hands-on educational experience for them,” she said. “I think it’s worth the short-term challenges we’ve had.”

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