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Hands-on math for kids

A student at CNM shows 12-year-old Juan Luis of Van Buren Middle School how to hold a simulated welding rod on Thursday during a summer camp program. Behind Luis are classmates Christian Perez, 13, left, and Jonathan Dominguez, 13. (Aaron Sweet/For the Albuquerque Journal)

A student at CNM shows 12-year-old Juan Luis of Van Buren Middle School how to hold a simulated welding rod on Thursday during a summer camp program. Behind Luis are classmates Christian Perez, 13, left, and Jonathan Dominguez, 13. (Aaron Sweet/For the Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Shania Jamon licked her bottom lip, focused her eyes intently on the task before her, then set out to perform as perfect a weld as possible on a welding simulator computer Thursday afternoon at Central New Mexico Community College.

With a few of her Van Buren Middle School classmates and an equal number of adult volunteers looking over her shoulder, the 12-year-old performed well, to say the least.

“I got a 95!” she shrieked as the computer tallied up the various aspects of her weld. It was a good score.

Mike White, a CNM welding student and one of the adult volunteers, chuckled. “That’s why I don’t want to try it,” he said with a grin. “They’ll show me up!”

Meanwhile, over in CNM’s carpentry lab, Yaqueline Chacon and Felicien Niyogushiama, both 11, were busy measuring the tread and risers for a mock staircase. While Yaqueline measured as precisely as she could, Felicien held the carpenter’s square firmly in place. Each of the treads, or runs, had to measure precisely 12 inches; each riser, seven inches.

They aced the task.

The three youngsters were part of a group of 100 or so from Van Buren at CNM for the final session of a pilot program between the college and Albuquerque Public Schools. It was called Career Technical Education Summer Camp, and the goal – and desire – is to expand it next year. The kids, all volunteers, were 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders from Van Buren’s summer program.

“The camp will provide an excellent opportunity for middle school students to apply math concepts learned from their morning lessons to hands-on activities and projects completed in CNM’s labs and classrooms,” said Lisa Chakos Knapp, CNM’s career technical education outreach manager, before the program started.

The hands-on vocational training focused on four trade modules: surveying, plumbing and electrical, welding, and carpentry.

  • In the welding module, the kids were introduced to the trade and learned about various processes and safety practices.
  • In surveying, they received an overview of surveying and mapping and the equipment used in the field.
  • In electricity and plumbing, much of the focus was also on tools of the trade and safety practices.
  • And in carpentry, the kids learned fundamentals that included blueprints, tools and safety.

Each session began in the classroom, where teachers drove home the importance of math in each of the vocational trades.

Back in the welding lab, Juan Luis Salazar, 12, and two 13-year-olds, Jonathan Dominguez and Cristian Perez, were carefully measuring various pieces of iron under the watchful eye of Jennifer Klecker, a CNM Applied Technology School advisor and herself a welding student. Klecker made sure the three boys understood the importance of accuracy, providing tips and constructive criticism when needed.

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