Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Opp High School senior Evan Christian spends a lot of time drawing and coloring at school.

No, he has not been sent back to kindergarten. He is in his landscape design class at OHS, learning the proper way to blueprint a plan for a landscaping project.

Christian is one of many students who participate in career and technical education electives at OHS and other county schools. February is Career and Technical Education month for the state of Alabama, spotlighting the classes in a high school curriculum that move beyond the classroom and textbooks and out into the real world.

“We learn about landscaping plans and how to choose the right nutrients and plants for a project,” Christian said. “Every so often we’ll go outside and trim some of the hedges around the school, or keep up the flowerbeds and learn how to keep them clean.”

Christian said he wants to be an architect, and that the skills he learns in the landscape design class will help in that endeavor.

“Our teacher, Gary Hall, makes a lot of the hands-on stuff voluntary,” he said. “You can volunteer to do something outside, or you can just stay inside and work from the book. I like to go outside when I get a chance; it’s nice to get out and get some fresh air.”

Hall also teaches classes in horticulture and turf management. For one of the turf management class’s projects, it has developed its own putting green, similar to the kind that one would see at a golf course.

OHS features a variety of classes in its career and technical education program. Tracy Weaver offers agriscience, Keith Ball teaches business marketing, Johnny Grimes teaches coop/career exploration and Tina Bradley teaches health science.

OHS sophomore Nikita Anderson is a student in the health science class taught by Bradley, a registered nurse.

“We talk about different things like the parts of the body and how they function, and what you need to know to become a nurse,” Anderson said. “We do projects that will help us get ready for any kind of health-related job, like in a hospital, nursing home or hospice.”

Anderson said that by her senior year, she hopes to begin working on her nursing license, by taking trips to Mizell Memorial Hospital for observation and additional training.

She also said several students will be going to Gadsden in March to participate in a state conference sponsored by the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA).

“We’re going up to Gadsden to observe doctors and nurses and see what they do,” she said.