Valley Oaks Enrichment
Welding one of many career-development enrichment offerings at KCSOS’s Valley Oaks Charter High School
First there were precise measurements. Then, Steven Smith dropped to a knee and lowered the protective shade on his welding hood. Sparks jumped from the blade of a circular saw as he made quick angular cuts to six-foot pieces of heavy steel.
The Valley Oaks Charter High School junior then turned his work over to his classmates across the shop who put the studs in place and welded them securely to a foundation. The end result was a sturdy frame for a portable pigeon loft that would be used on the school’s farm.
All in a day’s work — team work.
“The collaboration is what makes these projects so great,” said Valley Oaks High School vice principal and longtime welding instructor Daran Francis. “Once we are done with the metal frame, students in our ag mechanics class will do the finishing work.”
Valley Oaks offers a host of career-development enrichment classes like woodshop, horticulture, culinary arts, sewing and welding.
Last spring, Francis’ welding class finished a large-scale project that he is particularly proud of in partnership with the Kern County Museum next door to campus. His class built a nearly 200-foot wrought iron fence, which was placed in front of the Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center. It was a win-win, Francis said. Students were able to develop their welding skills to build something that adds security and historical beauty and the museum saved on labor costs.
“It is a privilege to build something that will be on display potentially for decades,” he said. “Students love to see their projects here on campus and on the museum grounds. They love being a part of something permanent.”
Welding is a skill that can benefit students in many ways. Francis said that he has had students land careers in the welding trade because of the interest and skills that were developed from taking his class. But more than just getting a glimpse into what a career in welding might look like, the class offers hands-on learning — a real-life extension of many things students learn in their academic classes.
“We use skills and information from math, chemistry, even language arts to accomplish our work,” Francis said. “And, work ethic is emphasized, which will benefit these students through their life no matter what their career path might be.”