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Scrap piles provide gold mine for teacher training

Photo by Brian Hansel Hawley art teacher Tera Hager takes her turn searching for interesting scrap metal pieces Tuesday morning at Wadena Hide and Fur.

What fires a teacher up to teach?

Scrap metal, of course.

With the start of another school year approaching a delegation of Minnesota teachers paid a visit to Wadena Hide and Fur Tuesday and Wednesday to hunt for treasure.

The treasure they were seeking was not gold or silver, it was rusty iron. Metal that had been forged into a plethora of shapes and sizes.

Tom and Rich Paper had invited the group to their U.S. Highway 10 scrap yard to hunt for the more interesting pieces of scrap.

The scrap season started early this year for the local business. The fine weather and good prices brought a lot of scrap from farm places all over the area. The June 17 and July 14 storms brought in even more. It has added up to a bonanza of scrap. There are mountains of it in the yard and more is rolling in every day.

Enter the Perpich Center for Arts.

The center is putting on two three-day workshops called "Forging Bonds Through the Arts" which gives teachers a chance to improve their skills by leaving their comfort zones.

The group leader is teaching artist and metal worker Marcia McEachron. Put a welder in McEachron's hand, show her some interesting metal pieces and she will turn out art.

"This is like gold, this is a gold mine," McEachron said as she perused the scrap piles with her students.

With their treasures stowed away, the teachers traveled back to New York Mills High School where administrators gave them room to meet and create.

In addition to getting their hands dirty with hands-on metal work, the teachers are studying collaborative learning, team building and learning techniques to boost student achievement through the arts.

By making objects and getting outside their comfort zones, the teachers opened new pathways in their minds. Some of the teachers in the party were art instructors but others taught social studies and English.

It is an fact that every teacher has some kind of knowledge to impart to students. Listening to lectures is one way students learn, applying their knowledge is another, but bridging the gap between say, art and music, creates a problem that can titillate a student's curiosity and present them with a challenge that makes them want to learn.

"It's all connected, it's all about developing the mind for problem solving," McEachron said.

According to McEachron, it was the arrival of blacksmiths in America that brought about the progress the United States came to realize. It is one thing to have a piece of metal in your hand, it takes a blacksmith to turn it into something useful.

Research has shown that teachers who participate in ongoing professional development create more dynamic classrooms, which has a direct link to achievement.

Many school districts lack the funds for professional development so the Perpich Center is bridging the gap. The workshop is part of the arts integration projects. The 10-county Lakes Country region was selected as the first region to benefit from the project.