BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — The historic McCray School in Alamance County is almost ready to welcome a new generation of student visitors.
Built in 1915, the one-room schoolhouse for African American children was recently restored to its original state. But before it can host scores of students for field trips, the school system wanted to build an outdoor learning space where classes can gather and experience more of what life was like in the early 1900s.
But to do that they needed help from David Miles and his Carpentry 1 class at the Career and Technical Education Center.
“I was really excited. And then when I told the kids, they were excited and you know, we went through the story of the school where it was located and what it was used for. They were all this excited about it,” Miles said.
They only had pictures of what the antique desks looked like and a few measurements. From there it was all hands-on deck learning.
“We looked at it, did the measurements and we did the material list. And after we get the material list, we went and bought the materials, cut it down. And once we got the first one together, I made them do an instructional list,” Miles said. “They went through and marked everything. So that later, if somebody wanted to come and build the benches again, we got instructions. So, they know how to build, they had the material list and the instructions how to do it.”
Then they got to put the tools they had only talked about in class to use.
“All the tools we had been talking about the speed square, the combination square, the counseling, the drills,” said Miles. “They got to use them, and they see what they use for. So they get to not only talk about it, but they actually get to physically use the tools and see what they use for.”
While they were building the desks, they talked about the importance of what they were doing.
“When I told them about it, I said, ‘Hey you have a chance to be a part of history.’ So, like in 20 years, I’m giving them 20, 30 years when they have kids, they can bring their kids to their side and say, ‘Hey, y’all part of history. We help build these.’ I think it’s something to be proud of. And I was real excited about doing it,” he said. “They learn so much. Because carpentry is a dying trade, it seems. And getting the kids engaged in doing this that’s something they can use later on in life if they don’t do it as a career. They can fall back on it and make money. Because you can make a decent living during carpentry.”
For Miles, it’s a double blessing. He gets to teach his students and help promote African American heritage.
“I feel honored to be able to take a part in this. And Sunday I told my church that I was taking part in it and some of the members actually went to that school. Yes. And I was like, wow, it’s amazing. I’m honored to be a part of it. And I think the kids are too. So, that’s a good thing.”
For him and many in the community, it’s not just a project. It’s a whole lot more. The school system hopes to have the construction of the outdoor learning space complete by the end of the summer so McCray School can start hosting school field trips at the start of next school year.
The district is also looking for families who may have pictures or books or any memorabilia from the original McCray School. They would love to have them to help further illustrate what life was like at the school in the early 1900s.