WCCS students construct rare instrument

Clockwise, from left, are John Lewis, Ryan Weidner, and Ethan Kerr work on the balalaika Monday morning. Missing from photo is Alan Parmeter.

“It’s like a Russian guitar.”

That’s how Warren County Christian School’s John Lewis described the balalaika. The instrument is what 10th-grade technology students at WCCS are building for this year’s project.

Projects in previous years have included, dulcimers, ukuleles, building guitars and restoring guitars that had been broken over the years. It’s always an instrument, though. The instruments that students build at WCCS are used in the spring arts concerts there. But what Lewis said he likes about having students build instruments is that it requires them to take a block of wood and turn it into something tangible, from scratch.

“They used to call it shop,” said Lewis. “But technology isn’t shop. In shop, they’d give you blueprints and get that part of it started for you,” said Lewis. In his technology classes, he said, students don’t have anything done ahead of time.

“They research on the computer,” said Lewis, “and they have to find something they want to make and then they have to look up basic instructions.” Students find all of the plans for the instruments they choose for their projects online, and from there they build their own templates, first drawing them to scale on paper and then transferring the plans onto a block of wood that will eventually become part of the finished project.

This year, said Lewis, the students spent a few days on research at the beginning of the spring semester and then got to work on their balalaika. The projects, said Lewis, “take technology from the computer and studying and into actually physically making things.”

Students also take photos of their project in process and create a PowerPoint presentation, so that instructions for recreating their projects are available. “It gets them thinking about the process too,” said Lewis.