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HopeTree in Salem Christmas Parade
HopeTree Academy students build an Appalachian-themed cabin for the Salem Christmas parade.
The project began two summers ago when students built a small rectangular deck. It ends when an Appalachian-
Perkins’ vocational class and Heather Leisch’s art class have kept students busy this semester putting together this intensive project. The reason it was so time consuming is that most of the work was done by hand: hammers, chisels, hand saws, and a draw knife.
"Appalachian Studies specifically has a lot to do with the summer program [at HopeTree Academy]. The history classes were about Appalachian Studies so the kids really got to learn about the region and the era."
"We did a lot of field trips to areas that were rich in Appalachian culture and the way things were back then. And we just thought it would be really neat if the kids were creating the same style of furniture to carry that [theme] on to the float," stated Behavioral Support Specialist Dawn Alfonso.
After the deck was built students began cutting the logs, stacking them to dry in the hot summer sun, skinning the bark off with the draw saw, cutting them to length and chiseling notches to fit one another; all tools and techniques used by our forefathers.
Recently students have been using power tools to get the project ready on time. Students are still building a roof and installing window panes as the final touches.
Perkins collaborated with Leisch’s art class on the project that had the students make decorations for the cabin. The art students drew Christmas trees, stars, and snowflakes to be cut out on drill saws by the vocational students.
This is the first so many students at HopeTree Academy have been involved in the same project.
"I think all of the students are really excited about working together on something really big. And I know that the students who have worked on the cabin are excited about finishing it and having it have a purpose, using it for something," stated Leisch.
"They can see something that they have created and see what they can do with their creativity and their artistry and see something that they’ve put themselves into come to a final product," Alfonso claimed.
Anyone interested in learning more about Gus Mitchell School should contact Dr. Tommy Barber at 540-389-4941.
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A non-profit based in Salem, VA, HopeTree provides residential, foster, and educational services to at-risk children and youth. HopeTree Family Services also operates a network of group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities across the state.