Students build cabin for WV campground

May 13, 2019

Last Tuesday, ESCAR Construction was the most popular construction company in Nicholas County.

The company completed a cabin project at the Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins next to Summersville Lake in April, but it wasn’t until Tuesday, during National Travel and Tourism Week, that the public got its first view.

While construction projects aren’t normally celebrated, especially a campground cabin, Tuesday’s event drew dignitaries from throughout the county and some from Charleston.

They were there to celebrate ESCAR Construction, not because of a top-notch job, but because of who they are.

ESCAR is an acronym for Eat, Sleep, Construction and Repeat, and the company is made up entirely of students from the Nicholas County Vocation and Technical School.

The cabin was the first of seven that the students worked on as a public-private partnership between the school system and the campground. The project lasted from October through early April.

According to Mark O’Dell, a carpentry instructor at the vocational school and the project facilitator, the project is part of the school’s Simulated Workplace Program. The students not only provide the physical construction labor but also served as project managers, safety managers and quality control managers.

O’Dell said the project allows students to learn leadership communication, multiple roles and gives them hands-on, real-world experience, which is necessary for construction trades.

“Oftentimes we learn better from our mistakes than if we’re doing everything absolutely right,” O’Dell said. “It’s a great project for us. Project-based learning, especially in a career and technical environment, is an absolute must.”

O’Dell said that because of the cabin’s size, the students weren’t bogged down for months learning one particular aspect of construction. Instead, they got a well-rounded tour through nearly all of the construction trades.

The minimal size of the cabins also meant that the students could work on the project indoors at their shop without having to spend time and energy traveling to a work site.

According to O’Dell, it was the partnership with the campground, owned by Shawn and Susan James, which made the project a success. While the school provided the expertise and the labor, James acquired the materials for the students.

“They just did phenomenal,” James said of the students’ work.

She said her family thinks the cabin projects are a win-win situation — promoting tourism in the region and educating students for the future.