SPARKS — Like tiny ants crawling over a metal anthill, children at Whitehead Elementary School were treated to a hands-on educational event Friday as Granite Construction hauled out its big machines for a lesson in gravel and partnerships.
“I love it!” said second-grader Alan Neri, 8. “It moves things. You get to move it!”
Granite Construction pickup foreman Eddy Sanders said he has been demonstrating the heavy equipment for a few years and likes to watch the students learn about the industry.
“Some are really inquisitive about all the little things. It’s kinda neat,” Sanders said. “The older ones, some of them say, ‘Oh, my dad does this!’”
On display were a mini excavator, a skid steer and a Komatsu 250. The children lined up, skipping around in anticipation of putting on a hard hat and jumping into the sky-high seat of the Komatsu machine to get their hands on the wheel.
“We usually shut the power off,” Sanders said. “We had to or the kids lay on the horn. One time one kid seemed stuck on it.”
Sanders looked around the school grounds and recalled that he helped paved the road outside years ago.
“I used to do a lot of these streets,” he said. “I paved them years ago.”
Micayla Currier, 8, said she learned that Granite Construction is “really fun.”
“They work really hard and they build the roads and help the concrete people and all that stuff,” Currier said. “I like the tractor because it’s big and my friend’s dad has one.”
Raistlin Salla,8, said he liked to watch the films about how the roads were made during a presentation. He played with samples of gravel and compilations of rock and concrete on the lunch table in front of him.
“I didn’t know there were two different roads, the concrete and the asphalt,” Salla said. “How some rocks are hard and some are soft. I didn’t know they recycle rock or how they drill and push rock over the edge of the mountain.
Jonathan Cliffe, a plant engineer, gave a speech to the children, showing them photos of how streets were constructed and how rock was formed to eventually become roadways.
“We try to give them exposure to different things,” Cliffe said. “We take them through the process. It’s something most people don’t get to see. We talk a lot about cost, how far we pave, the cost to pave. There are a lot of financially thinking kids. I was surprised. We get questions all over the board.”
Granite Construction is one of the nation’s largest diversified heavy civil contractors and construction materials prodders. The corporation hosted a construction industry education event Friday for students of Whitehead Elementary School in Sparks, which it has partnered with for the past 12 years with various educational programs.
The company partners with the school each year through a Granite Store. Students are able to earn “Granite Bucks” when they read a book or pages, according to their reading level, said principal Alyson Kendrick. Once earned, the bucks can be used to purchase items such as pencils, erasures, balls and other goodies at the store.
Granite also provides gift certificates to those students who have spent the most bucks to local stores once a semester through a drawing. And, at the end of each school year, Granite Construction provides an outdoor barbecue for all students and teachers.
The company also participates in a canned food drive. Granite Construction workers wheel in a wheelbarrow full of cans to be donated to the Northern Nevada Food Bank. Each classroom participates. Whichever class donates the most cans, the company gives each student a special prize, Kendrick said.
“The kids really look forward to Granite Day,” Kendrick said. “Some partnerships fall away through time. Here, both parties are committed to keeping it going. They can count on us and we totally count on them.”
Granite Construction conducted sessions on topics including safety, environment, materials, heavy equipment and life of a project. Granite also provided three pieces of heavy equipment in the parking lot to allow students to climb around inside and out, giving them an opportunity to discover the importance of safety and the experience of working in the construction industry.
Granite Construction Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Granite Construction Incorporated, is one of the nation’s largest diversified heavy civil contractors and construction materials producers. Granite Construction serves public and private sector clients through its offices nationwide. In the Reno-Sparks area, Granite is located at 1900 Glendale Ave. in Sparks.
For more information about the company, call 775-358-8792, or visit www.graniteconstruction.com.