Riverbank High School Building and Construction Instructor Cory Casteel and his second-year construction class that is a mixture of sophomores, juniors, and seniors successfully constructed owl boxes for local farmer Albert Deniz. The owl boxes were picked up earlier this month.
The students were given barn owl box plans that were modeled after an original design by Steve Simmons. Within the plans it notes that Simmons is from Merced and the plans have been in use since 1995 within this area. He has become a significant contributor to bird ecology through a massive program of building nest boxes followed by studying the occupants via banding.
There were 24 students that were put into groups and they started the project in August. They worked on them the entire semester. Some of the groups finished more quickly than others as some groups had some challenges and they only had one panel saw that they all had to share.
“The time it takes is dependent on a few variables,” stated Casteel. “The first is we are limited by only having one panel saw to cut the parts. Each group takes two class periods to make the cuts. So, it is a bit of a bottleneck.”
The boxes were made from one sheet of 3/4” plywood and each group used blueprints to execute the build.
“Secondly, each student in the group had to pass a hands-on test for each of the tools needed to make the box,” said Casteel. “This takes time to test each student, plus the time they need to prepare for the test. Thirdly, it depends on how motivated each student and each group leader is to get the work done.”
Alex Nisperos was selected as the foreman for the class. Casteel asked the students at the beginning of the year if anyone was interested in being the foreman and a few students volunteered. They had to write a paragraph about why they wanted to be the foreman and then were interviewed by Casteel. He made the final selection which was Nisperos.
“Alex is the foreman and he stepped up any time there was an opportunity if someone was absent or if a group was struggling, he would take over and help that group out,” remarked Casteel.
The students expressed that they enjoy the class because of Mr. Casteel and that they can be creative and build things. They also added that they really enjoyed seeing the finished product.
Casteel and Nisperos worked together in selecting the group leaders and teams.
“I was in this class before,” added Nisperos. “I thought about being foreman then but it wasn’t the right time. Now that I am a senior, I feel that I could do it. It (being foreman) is really cool. It was nice that I got to help each group out and work with them.”
During the morning of Dec. 15, the students loaded up the boxes and put them in the farmer’s trailer. They were all pleased with their work and so was Deniz, the grateful recipient.
Deniz shared that he did not attend RHS but his three sisters graduated from there. Their farm is down the road from the high school. After seeing the article in the paper about the class building owl boxes, he decided to give Casteel a call and see if they had any. So last year he received about half a dozen owl boxes.
He said, “Anything to help out the local town. They turned out beautiful. They do a very good job.”
He picked up 16 boxes and they will all be painted and put out in the field so the owls can assist with rodent control.