Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-graders Maddi Redder (left) and Brayden Gregory prepare to rig a beam to a shop crane during their class’ field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-graders Maddi Redder (left) and Brayden Gregory prepare to rig a beam to a shop crane during their class’ field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Students try their hands at heavy equipment at Alaska Crane Consultants

Kristi Felchle’s first grade class at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary added a hands-on element to their recent lesson about work and the community: Taking a field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants, a training program site within walking distance of their school.

Alaska Crane Consultants owner and founder Bill Elmore worked for as a crane operation trainer for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation before leaving in 2013 to start his business, which offers certifying classes to prospective crane operators. Two of his grandchildren are K-Beach Elementary students, and last year he offered their classes a chance to visit and work with cranes. This year he did the same, both with Felchle’s first graders — who include his grandson, Bentley Elmore — and his granddaughter’s second grade class.

Though the adults who come to Elmore for the crane certification’s written and practical exams are often experienced industry professionals, they lack the specialized expertise of crane operation. Most arrive in his classroom “not knowing the difference between a boom and a front tire,” Elmore said. He started with the first grade students just he as does his adult students: teaching them “to speak the language of cranes,” he said.

While explaining the different types of cranes, parts of cranes, and crane-associated jobs, Elmore dashed around to gesture and demonstrate on his classroom’s numerous model cranes and pieces of rigging — items he also uses with adult students.

“You try to put a visual in their heads, what things look like, sound like,” Elmore said. “You’ve got to have confidence and competence, both. And above all, safety.”

The students picked up a new vocabulary of hand signals as well: load up, load down, left, right, and stop. After learning what riggers, tagline holders, and signal people do, the students practiced the various jobs, first in the indoor classroom. Two students — properly attired in hardhats — rigged a square beam to a shop crane, two more took hold of the taglines that would prevent it from twisting and swaying while being lifted into the air, and one signaled the beam up and down while another operated the crane.

After each student had a chance to try one of the jobs, it was time to visit Alaska Crane Consultants’ larger outdoor classroom: The yard where Elmore keeps six cranes for instruction and demonstration — four mobile cranes, plus two stationary cranes that were once mounted on Cook Inlet’s Tyonek platform. He’s used these to teach oil field service workers, construction contractors, dock loaders and students from other industries.

“What do you think we’re going to lift today?” he asked as the class headed outside.

Several of the students had visited last year as kindergartners and remembered lifting and moving a bicycle rigged to one of Elmore’s cranes. This year they’d be moving an electric toy jeep.

Bob Elmore’s son Mike Elmore, a North Slope equipment operator, watched and supervised from a deck outside the crane’s cabin. The K-Beach first graders were classmates of his son, Bentley. Like him, many were gaining firsthand experience of their parents’ jobs, said Felchle. As part of their classroom unit on work, the students interviewed their families about their jobs.

“And a lot of them did have parents who work on the North Slope or for construction companies, with cranes or other big heavy machines,” Felchle said.

One by one the students entered the crane’s cabin and lifted the jeep, moving it according to a classmate’s signals before returning it to the ground and leaving smiling.

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-graders Melanie Partridge (left) and Aidan Gilliam serve as tagline holders, steadying a beam being lifted by a shop crane during their class’ field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-graders Melanie Partridge (left) and Aidan Gilliam serve as tagline holders, steadying a beam being lifted by a shop crane during their class’ field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Aiden Gilliam steadies a beam being lifted by a shop crane during his class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Aiden Gilliam steadies a beam being lifted by a shop crane during his class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Madison Hibpshman (left) uses a crane to lift a toy electric jeep, watched by Mike Elmore, during her class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Madison Hibpshman (left) uses a crane to lift a toy electric jeep, watched by Mike Elmore, during her class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-grader Nate Coon operates a crane, watched by Mike Elmore during his class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-grader Nate Coon operates a crane, watched by Mike Elmore during his class’s field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Crane Consultants owner Bob Elmore guides Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-grader Caleb Holper in giving hand signals to a fellow student moving a toy electric jeep with a crane during a field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Crane Consultants owner Bob Elmore guides Kalifornsky Beach Elementary first-grader Caleb Holper in giving hand signals to a fellow student moving a toy electric jeep with a crane during a field trip to Alaska Crane Consultants on Monday, May 7, 2018 on Kalifornsky Beach road. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

A mock-up of an A-Frame property that would be located across the street from the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies Wynn Nature Center and used by the Homer Forest Charter School shows places for classroom yurts, a dormitory and kitchen, a parking area with bus parking and staff housing. The configuration was presented Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board of Education. (Via Homer Forest Charter School presentation to school board)
Efforts to open K-8 nature school in Homer delayed

Charter organizers proposed changing the school’s opening date from 2023 to 2024

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai explains the ranked choice voting process as the results are tallied during an Alaska Public Media broadcast, Nov. 23, 2022, at her office in Juneau. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Elections division head to step down Friday

Fenumiai made the decision to retire in September, a division spokesperson said

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 cases continue to spike

Cases rise in Kenai Peninsula Borough for 3rd straight week

Gingerbread houses are displayed at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Gingerbread houses rule

10th annual gingerbread house competition returns to Kenai Chamber of Commerce

Kinley Ferguson tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas during Christmas in the Park festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas in the Park welcomes the holiday season to Soldotna

Santa headlines celebration with caroling, Nativity, cocoa and fireworks

Children decorate Christmas cookies, part of Christmas Comes to Nikiski festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Nikiski Community Recreation Center in Nikiski, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas crafts and Santa photos

Nikiski holds start of annual December celebration

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Food Bank fundraiser to auction Legos, offer Santa photos to pets

Bark, Block n’ Bowl will take place on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seated left, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom sign their oaths of office during the inauguration ceremony, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy, a Republican, last month became the first Alaska governor since Democrat Tony Knowles in 1998 to win back-to-back terms. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Dunleavy, Dahlstrom take oaths of office

Gov. Dunleavy was reelected during the Nov. 8 general election

Most Read