Reader News: Ridgewater College partners with area high schools for hands-on learning opportunities - West Central Tribune

Reader News: Ridgewater College partners with area high schools for hands-on learning opportunities – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR and HUTCHINSON — Hands-on learning is a great way to acquire technical skills. When high school instructors needed to upgrade their skills to make the most of their latest technology, they turned to Ridgewater College for help. Faculty and staff were happy to answer the call with personalized connections.

“Ridgewater is the college of the community,” said Amy Birkland, Admissions and Outreach Specialist at Ridgewater. “We are here as a resource and always seek to collaborate and make meaningful connections with high school students, teachers and counselors for career exploration, community outreach and partnerships.”

It was indeed a partnership – one with Steve Hoemberg, then Outreach Director of the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence, that set the wheels in motion to serve and support area high schools.

When new agricultural instructor Cassidy Wiethoff attended a small engine training workshop last summer, she had no idea how meeting Hoemberg, the instructor, would benefit her and her students so much. from Buffalo Lakes-Hector-Stewart High School (BLHS).

Teacher Care Day at Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart High School provided an opportunity for high school teachers and students to improve their technical skills and explore careers in agriculture, manufacturing, automotive and welding working with Ridgewater partners for a day. BLHS instructor Cassidy Wiethoff, left, learns from machine tool instructor Greg Ryder how a computer can run plasma groundwater to cut steel plates into usable shapes and signs.

Contribution / Ridgewater College

As a new teacher, Wiethoff expressed interest in Hoemberg having technical experts visit her class. Soon, Hoemberg connected Wiethoff, Birkland and his colleague Judy Barka from the Minnesota State Agriculture Center of Excellence known as AgCentric. Together, they explored ways Ridgewater could support BLHS and advocate for career and technical education (CTE) pathways.

The result?

A dozen Ridgewater technical faculty, support staff, student agricultural ambassadors and Minnesota State outreach partners came to BLHS for a first-day teacher takeover. In addition to helping instructors, they met with over 100 high school students in grades 9-12.

About Ridgewater:

Ridgewater College is a community and technical college with campuses in the central Minnesota communities of Willmar and Hutchinson. The college serves more than 5,000 students through its nearly 100 academic programs and more than 68,000 hours of training for individuals and businesses through personalized training and continuing education. The college is a state member of Minnesota and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Minnesota State has 30 community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately 340,000 students. It is the third largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States.

“The goal was to provide service to Cassidy and Jill Grams, two local CTE instructors,” Birkland explained. “This is Cassidy’s first year as a teacher, so our goal was to make sure she felt supported in her new role by letting her know that Ridgewater had resources to support her class. Due to the difficulties high schools are having with transportation costs and a shortage of contractors, we asked Cassidy, “Can we come to you!?”

Wiethoff welcomed the invitation, so five Ridgewater programs took their shows on the road.

“It was a really nice day,” Wiethoff said. “It was so cool to see these kids having so much fun learning.”

One of his students had experienced welding so much that he didn’t want to leave for his next class. Another student told Wiethoff that he had improved so much that welding was all he wanted to do now.

“As a technical trades college instructor, I am always honored to step into the environment of our secondary schools to understand what they need to teach with in terms of space, equipment and resources,” said Greg Ryder, machine tool instructor at Ridgewater. “The talented educators reminded me of the importance of working together, collaborating and just being human.”

Ryder taught Wiethoff some basics for engaging his students on the school’s computer numerical control (CNC) trainers to explore career opportunities in manufacturing, and introduced him to a computer-controlled plasma water table. for cutting steel plates into usable shapes and signage work.

KellyRuewithVirtual RealitypainteratBLHS_m.jpg

The virtual reality (VR) car paint booth was a hit for students from Buffalo Lakes-Hector-Stewart High School who visited the body shop run by Kelly Rue of Ridgewater, right.

Contribution / Ridgewater College

Automotive trades instructors Kevin Larison and Kelly Rue showed the students how an ignition system works on a typical car and made the connection to the small engines the students worked on in class. They also introduced them to scan tools for diagnosing issues such as misfires.

“The VR paint booth was fantastic – my kids were still talking about it after lunch,” Wiethoff said.

Ridgewater Meat-Cutting Instructor Sophia Thommes spoke to Food Science students, sharing details about this new program and career opportunities.

Other agricultural topics and activities during Teacher Takeover included student stories of how internships connect learning to future careers, the importance of marketing agricultural produce, alternator disassembly, and practices for help people be good stewards of the land and soil.

“The great part of this day is that as students explore different pursuits, they can connect those experiences to careers to explore further,” said Tammy Howe, agriculture coordinator at Ridgewater. “There are so many good jobs.”

“Having the opportunity to work directly with the students was important,” said John Travis, welding instructor at Ridgewater. This visit helped him realize the daily challenge some high school teachers face trying to fit so much content into 50-60 minute lessons when that time also includes set-up and tear-down. “We invited teachers to come to Ridgewater so we could continue to build that relationship.”

A Marshall practice connection

Marshall High School instructor Michael Braithwaite recently received a Launch Your Future Today (LYFT) grant to purchase two automotive trainers – one for steering and suspension activities and one for brakes. The problem was to integrate them into the classes.


Marshall High School instructor Michael Braithwaite brought about 50 of his Career and Technical Education (CTE) students with him to see the Ridgewater College campus and explore both automotive programs and welding with the Ridgewater faculty member Jon Friton, center.

Contribution / Ridgewater College

“Through our partnership with the Minnesota State Transportation Centers of Excellence, Steve Hoemberg introduced us to the trainers and that Michael might need some help learning how to effectively manage the trainers with his students,” said Birkland said.

A few talks later, Braithwaite came to Ridgewater in December to learn from faculty member Jon Friton and brought nearly 50 students to learn the basics with him.

“Our Automotive Service Technology faculty was quick to offer help when approached with the idea of ​​training both students and teachers,” Birkland said.

“I learned well with the students,” Braithwaite said, “but then over lunch the faculty at Ridgewater showed me all the extra activities I can do with the trainers and suggested some tools that our school might consider buying to enhance the automotive learning experience even further.”


Marshall High School instructor Michael Braithwaite, left, learned the ins and outs of learning and teaching with an automotive trainer from Ridgewater faculty member Jon Friton.

Contribution / Ridgewater College

To extend the impact of the visit, Birkland arranged for the students to also explore other areas that interested them: auto body repair and welding.

The students tried out a transmission dynamometer, engine analysis tools and diagnostic equipment, a welding robot, a welding simulator and a virtual reality paint system.

“It was really good for all of us,” Braithwaite said.

As a current agricultural education teacher, he is excited to use the trainers and new skills in his automotive lessons now, but also when his high school opens a new vocational and technical education center next year. (CTE) where he will teach Advanced Automotive. and advanced welding courses.

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