The humble coat hanger will serve a noble purpose at the historic Rising Sun Elementary School in Vernalis, thanks to Patterson High School teen welders and an administrator doing his homework.
Rising Sun, built in 1870 on 81/4 acres on the west side of Stanislaus County, now serves young adults with disabilities. A portion of its acreage has been converted to a 1-acre lavender farm, where raised beds grow vegetables for school lunches and a cut flower garden provides blooms.
Besides providing a lush landscape and seasonally heady scent, the Rising Sun gardens help students learn job skills for nurseries, retail and restaurants. On Oct. 4, volunteers will hoist drying racks made from coat hangers into place in the school shed, in time for fall cuttings of fragrant lavender.
The project stemmed from an assignment given Chapman University doctoral student Phil Alfano, superintendent of Patterson Joint Unified School District.
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“As part of our course on innovation, we have a competition to come up with an inventive use for a wire coat hanger,” Alfano said by email. “The purpose of the assignment is to encourage creativity, find added value to an everyday item, and build community.”
A regional team worked out the design: Alfano; Dave Kline, Newman Crows-Landing School District; Chris Fuzie, owner of CMF Leadership; Piret Leonetti, director of Amador County State Preschools; Lee-Volker Cox, retired U.S. Air Force; and Lauralie Haley, Stanislaus County Office of Education.
Alfano tapped the PHS ag welding program to create the racks. “They clipped the hooks off hangers, and welded them together in pairs. Next, our team built wooden frames and attached the coat hangers to the frames,” he said.
Rising Sun students are assembling the racks with chain, getting them ready to hoist to the rafters on Community Day.