Old, new blend in updated program

By Tammy Keith Originally Published May 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Heather Neumeier teaches a Family and Consumer Sciences class in a temporary location at Bigelow High School until the school’s new expansion is complete.

Family and Consumer Sciences Program classes at Bigelow High School this fall will combine old and new skills — sewing and Smart Boards, cooking and computers.

“It’s high-tech home ec,” teacher Heather Neumeier said.

A $3.6 million addition to the high school includes a large Family and Consumer Sciences classroom, complete with four kitchens, she said.

The program’s former home, a 70-year-old building, was torn down to make room for the addition, she said.

“The ceiling was falling in, and the floor,” Neumeier said of the former facility.

“Before, we had three kitchens; two worked.”

For the past 1 1/2 years, classes have been held in a temporary building without proper equipment.

“We haven’t had any cooking at all since we’ve been in the temporary building,” Neumeier said.

High School Principal Dewayne Wammack said Neumeier understood that sacrifice was part of getting a new facility.

“She’s done a good job getting through with what we had to get through on,” he said.

Neumeier said she is excited about the new facility, though.

“I’m getting one classroom, but it’s going to be huge,” she said. “I’ll have an office. I’ve never had an office before.”

New equipment will include 20 laptop computers and an interactive white board, printers, cash registers and adding machines.

Neumeier said the district received a grant in February for a new program of study, consumer services.

The grant will provide the electronic equipment, Neumeier said, and the district will provide furnishings. However, she is doing something a little unusual to get supplies such as wash cloths, towels and measuring cups.

A shower for the new classroom will be held from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bigelow Civic Center. Neumeier registered for items at Target and Walmart, and gift cards to any store will be accepted, she said. Items can also be dropped off at the high school any day during school hours.

A few silent-auction items will be available at the shower, and cake and refreshments will be served.

“This is the first time we’ve changed where it’s geared toward careers,” she said.

In addition to the basics — cooking, sewing and cleaning — she said classes this fall will include entrepreneurial experience, which has changed from an elective to a requirement. Also, customer relations and consumer resources are new classes. Personal and family

finance and housing and interior design will continue to be offered, she said.

Classes such as parenting, child development and foods and nutrition are staying, too, Neumeier said.

The core classes will be taught each year, and some classes will rotate every other year, she said.

Students who pass classes in entrepreneurial experience will receive a certificate in customer relations, which means they have been trained to use a cash register, etc., Neumeier said.

Many of her students will seek a job in fast food, and that certificate will come in handy, she said.

Neumeier said that when she started teaching Family and Consumer Sciences 11 years ago, “maybe 15 percent” of the students in grades seven through 12 were male. Today, about 40 percent are male, she said.

“They love it,” she said. “The boys love to sew and cook more than the girls. When we draw house plans for interior design, they get into that.”

Neumeier said that because so many couples both have careers, it’s important for both sexes to learn homemaking skills.

Seth Nordrum, 16, a junior, said he took the elective class because of the teacher.

“I enjoy Mrs. Neumeier’s class, any class she has,” he said. “She’s a very great teacher.”

He said he had learned in Family and Consumer Sciences classes “basically, about parenting and life skills, … child care, personal responsibility.”

Kayla Vines, 17, also a junior, said her class will be the first to graduate in the new building, and she’s looking forward to the new classes.

“You can get registered for being a cashier, so that’ll be pretty cool,” she said.

Neumeier said that sometimes she is amazed at what some students don’t know.

“They didn’t know if you go rent an apartment, that you don’t go that day. They didn’t know you put a deposit down” or get the utilities turned on before you move in, she said.

Some seniors don’t know how to write a check or wash clothes, she said, but the program teaches that.

Neumeier said she had her seventh-graders do a PowerPoint presentation on a vacation for a family of four on a budget of $5,000 for eight days, outlining the cost of gasoline, airfare, food, entertainment and lodging.

She also has students prepare meals for a week for $20.

“They really have to dig deep. They’re not used to that — they’ve lived with Momma and Daddy their whole lives.”

Neumeier said the new classroom will be state of the art, but basic skills are still important.

“It’s going to have a touch of the old, but enough of the new. I don’t want to totally forget the old,” she said.

Superintendent Eric Saunders agreed.

“Got to have it,” he said of the program. “Technology doesn’t take the place of everything.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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