Gering High School partnered with the Nebraska Forest Service to provide students a unique learning opportunity within the technical and skills trade courses at GHS.
Nebraska Forest Service representative Adam Smith visited GHS Thursday, Oct. 17 to demonstrate how to use the portable saw mill as well as talk about the wood drying process in a kiln.
Students watched as Smith worked with Chrissy Land, community forester for the Nebraska Forest Service, and teacher Steve Land to saw a pine tree into slabs of wood Thursday afternoon. Students in the morning classes watched as they cut hackberry trees into 2-inch by 4-foot slabs and 2-inch by 8-inch slabs.
“Between the two donated trees this morning, the school has about $800 worth of lumber,” said Land.
With the moisture our area recently received, the wood has a moisture level around 32%. To get the wood down to 10% moisture, it will dry in the kiln for a couple weeks.
Smith said the trees were donated by the City of Gering following the recent storms.
“Management of the forest is important,” Smith said. “The way the saw mill uses wood allows students to make items, rather than just putting the wood into burn piles.”
Thursday afternoon as the students watched the pine tree be cut into pieces, they learned the process of taking a round tree and making a manufacturing a product they can use.
“When you get what you want out, it’s rewarding,” Smith said. “This pine tree was by the swimming pool and you probably walked passed it several times over the summer. It was stressed and fell after the recent wind storm.”
As part of understanding the process of manufacturing, Smith discussed safety. He said the two most common safety concerns people working with a saw mill should be aware of is the log rolling onto people’s feet, hands and fingers and moving the log onto the deck to be cut.
“It was cool to see the process from round to small pieces of wood,” tenth grader Luis Avila said. “I was surprised by how big the mill is.”
Sophomore Hannah Sawyers was excited to have Gering selected.
“It’s monumental for us and to have such a small school and small town be able to have the same opportunity is great,” Sawyers said.
Sawyer said she is excited to use the equipment in the future because she will be part of the process of creating something they can use. She said her mom likes wood furniture and said the partnership will provide her an opportunity to make a desk or furniture.
During the wood cutting process, Sawyer said it awakened her senses.
“It feels like you’re stuck in the middle of a forest after a rain storm,” she said. “That cedar pine smell is great.”
GHS is one of three high schools across the state to partners with the forest service and receive a saw mill for educational purposes based on their proximity to the Wildcat Hills. Chadron and Ainsworth also received new saw mills. Land said the school will also receive a drying kiln, which will be located out in the technical and skilled trades building hopefully within a week, so they can use it before the weather changes. They also received an Orion 910 moisture meter by Wagner meters. In total, the high school received over $23,000 in products for the skills and technical trade classes.
“I hope this opens their eyes to the local source they have to produce valuable products in their hometown,” Smith said.