CATA students erect outdoor classroom at Sportsman Lake Park

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Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons and West Point High School and CATA students Ollie Howell, Nick Lee and Jesus Rodriguez stand by the future outdoor classroom structure at Sportsman Lake Park in the Wildflower Garden. (Cheyenne Sharp)

CULLMAN, Ala. – A few Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA) students have spent the last handful of weeks constructing a new outdoor classroom area near the Wildflower Garden at Sportsman Lake Park.

The halfway-finished platform will be around a 16 feet by 20 feet of seating area, with benches surrounding the space and a raised teaching or speaking platform at the front of the space.

Cullman County Master Gardeners reached out to Mike Burkett, CATA’s Building Construction instructor, about the students building the addition in the meadow of the Wildflower Garden, allowing a space for groups to congregate on warm spring and summer days.

“It’s a 16- by 20-foot platform, with a teaching platform on the far end. It will have benches all around, and there will be a ramp here to allow everyone to access it,” said Burkett. “This is still a work in progress, but they will be able to use this for lots of different things here like classes for the garden.”

The students have spent hours on most weekends and after school, meeting on Saturday mornings and after extra-curricular activities to make headway on the project, aiming for completion before summertime to provide maximum recreational time for community use.

“These three (West Point High School and CATA students Ollie Howell, Nick Lee and Jesus Rodriguez) have primarily done most of the work,” said Burkett. “We designed it for them and the boys came in on various Saturdays and to get the framing done; the bench supports were made in the shop and brought here to be installed.”

Practicing their skills is part of the career tech organization the students belong to; the boys are headed to the SkillsUSA competition this weekend, when the project will reflect on the community service portion of the scoring model.

Speaking about the experience and memories the students will gain from this venture, Burkett smiled, “This gives them some real-world experience with construction on a job site. Then, maybe one day, 20 years from now, they’ll come down with their kids and say, ‘I built that.’”

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