In the spring of 2012, in an attempt to make cement planters to beautify the new Fortuna Middle School campus, students in Dr. Kent Willis' elective classes originally searched the Internet for large cement planters for sale, but they were very expensive. In their persistent efforts, they discussed alternatives, and then designed their own cement planter forms in class, using graph paper to make scale drawings. With the help of Robert Wilson, school custodian, they first made a prototype using donated plywood, rebar scraps, and $105 made by collecting cans and bottles from basketball tournaments in the new gym. The prototype was a success and was soon planted with blue and gold flowers, school colors. The cost of the student-made planter was $25.50 worth of ready mix, plus some one-time costs for screws and brackets.
This school year's students in Willis' elective classes also learned how to make scale drawings of planters. Students calculated how much wood and ready mix it would take to make 6 large cement planters for the school. Teacher Michael Kauffman acquired a school beautification grant and earmarked some money for planter materials for students. Using this money to buy needed materials, some donated rebar, and their scale drawings, Willis, Wilson and students built three forms for large cement planters. After school, one day a week, for about 3 hours, Willis and Wilson taught groups of students how to mix ready mix in a wheelbarrow, how to pour mixed cement into the forms, how and where to put in rebar, and how to get trapped air bubbles out of the wet cement. The cement was allowed to dry for about a week, and then the forms were stripped to reveal the planters. Due to the amount of time needed to make each one, only 3 were made before the end of the school year. The last one had "District Office" letters imbedded in the front, which was a successful attempt to learn how to put lettering on them. This was a great project for students to apply learned math concepts, problem solving skills, listening skills, and physical exercise to make a positive contribution to school beautification.
Fortuna businesses Forbusco Lumber and Humboldt County's Own helped with this project. Forbusco Lumber gave the school a generous discount on the materials bought there, and Forbusco employee John Taylor cut out all the pieces for our plywood forms. Humboldt County's Own had two employees bring a forklift to Fortuna Middle School to help move the planters, which were 400 pounds apiece.
This concrete planter was a fun project that involved lots of people, and most importantly, taught kids practical applications of their education that resulted in a pretty nice finished product for the school.