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Elementary students practice barn-raising

BURGIN — There was an old-fashioned barn-raising Thursday at Burgin Elementary School.

The school's 36 fifth-graders learned how to erect a scale model of a timber-frame barn in the school gym. They hammered wooden pegs into mortise-and-tenon connections, lifted the "bents" or walls, and topped the structure with rafters.

"It builds teamwork," said Paul Knoebel of the Akron, Ohio, area, who led the students through each step of the hands-on construction.

The demonstration of traditional methods is part of a curriculum offered by the National Barn Alliance on the history of American barns.

The Alliance, which is devoted to the preservation of barns, is holding its annual national conference Thursday through Saturday at nearby Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

"If we can save just 10 percent of the barns, I think they're going to be revered in 50 years like covered bridges are revered today," Alliance president Charles Leik said.

This is the first time the alliance has held its national conference in Kentucky, and it's the southernmost state for the event. The conference is expected to attract 90 people from Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, New York, New Jersey and other states, Leik said.

The Burgin demonstration was the 70th time the mini-barn has been erected, Knoebel said.

Leik said the activity can have a surprising effect.

"Some of the students that might not be the best academically show leadership in seizing the project and leading the other kids," he said. "That's very rewarding."

Josiah Robbins, 12, said it was interesting to see how barns were built in the 1800s. "It's way different than how we build them now," he said.

And Joanah Loomer, 11, said she liked framing the barn.

"Once you get to really build it, you get to see how it was really made."