Students in Jay M. Robinson High School's masonry classes are getting a hands-on lesson as they take part in a service learning project to help the Harrisburg Historical Society.
The society is working with the town of Harrisburg to restore a 150-to-200-year-old cabin.
Darren Hartsell, Jay M. Robinson High School's masonry teacher, said students' work on the cabin complements the classes' curriculums, allowing students to work with mortar and stone.
Margaret Stallings donated the cabin, which was on her property several miles away until about a year and a half ago when it was moved to its current site on Robinson Church Road in Harrisburg. The two-story cabin now sits near the Morrison-Sims general store, which later became the Harrisburg post office.
Since the students began working on the cabin in late October, they've helped construct the cabin's foundation and built a working fireplace and chimney. Now they're working to finish the chimney's stonework.
Laying stone is a challenge, Hartsell said.
"It's what we consider advanced laying technique," Hartsell said. "You have to put it together like a puzzle."
Senior Corbin Cochran has already put to use many of the skills he's learned while working on the cabin. He laid a stone fireplace at his home for his senior project.
He said working on the cabin with his classmates also has taught them about teamwork.
"You can't do something like this by yourself," he said.
Hartsell teaches three levels of masonry classes at the high school, and the advanced classes, which have 14 students, have been working on the cabin.
Jay M. Robinson High School is one of four schools in the county that have a masonry program. Central Cabarrus and Mount Pleasant have masonry classes, and Hartsell established a masonry class at Cox Mill High School when it opened last fall.
Students were delayed by cold weather in January and February, but recent spring weather has allowed them to pick up the work again, and they often travel to the cabin to work for the duration of their hour and a half class period.
Now all that's left to do is to finish stoning and grouting the chimney, as well as a few odds and ends, Hartsell said. He expects the class will finish their work before the end of the school year.
The school's masonry classes often work on projects around campus, including the construction of benches at the school's entrance and press boxes at the baseball and softball fields.
Hartsell, who was a masonry contractor for 21 years, estimated that if the school had hired a contractor to complete all the work his students have completed on campus, the bill would reach about $50,000.
But the cabin restoration is the first project of its magnitude for the students, Hartsell said.
The chance to lay stone is a great opportunity for students because the cost of such work often prevents students from getting the chance.
Ted McCachren of Harrisburg, who is leading the project, said a plaque will be placed in the cabin to commemorate the students' efforts when the restoration is complete.
"They've done a great service," said Harrisburg Town Council member Bill Williams of the students.
The town set aside $10,000 from this year's budget to help fund materials for the restoration of the cabin, which is located on town-owned property in Harrisburg Park.
Williams said the historical society plans to soon send letters to Harrisburg residents and businesses requesting donations for the project. The town will match the amount of donations received, he said.
Hartsell said the class might also help construct a forge near the cabin where a local blacksmith could give demonstrations.
"We want the people in the county to see what the kids are capable of and what our career technical programs provide," he said.