Rock Hard on Education
When Kennesaw Quarry began mining granite in the early 1950s, that area of northwestern Georgia was fairly empty, nothing like the suburban-Atlanta neighborhood that now surrounds the facility. Mining was easier when there was little development and few neighbors. But the area would find itself transformed from agriculture to a bedroom community for growing Atlanta and then a center for commercial, residential, and institutional development. Kennesaw Quarry supplied materials for much of that growth — the portion of Interstate 75 that runs through the area; Cobb County’s general aviation airport that was built in the 1960s on a portion of the property owned by the quarry; and Kennesaw State College (now University), which was founded in 1966; not to mention Town Center Mall, Cobb Place Shopping Mall, and a shopping strip along one of Cobb County’s busiest roadways. Over time, as more people began living and working in the area, Vulcan lost its anonymity. As civilization surrounded Kennesaw Quarry, mining became more complicated, but what might seem like a curse is actually a blessing.
Education is the key
Vulcan knew that the key to addressing concerns from the encroaching community was to educate the public about the operation and the importance of mining. It wasn’t enough for the quarry just to be involved in the community, the community needed to know why the quarry was there and what was going on inside the pit. So Kennesaw began an aggressive community relations program.
“Our community relations program began in the 1980s when Vulcan decided to relocate the county road that ran through the middle of the plant area to the edge of the property,” says Steve Collier, plant manager. “This allowed Kennesaw Quarry to begin work on the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s ‘About Face Program,’ which led to the quarry’s designation as Showplace and, ultimately, Quarry of the Year’ in 1997. Once we felt a little better about our appearance and our operation, we began hosting tours of our facility.”
Enter Edith Parivechio, community relations coordinator. When Vulcan built a new employee training facility at the quarry, she recognized a greater potential. “It started out as an employee building, but it evolved,” Parivechio says. “After we built the building, we began putting granite samples in display cases. Granite samples are nice, but I thought it would be even better to display other minerals and objects as well. We have a great collection of fossils and minerals, and exhibits showing the importance of mining to our society.”
The building quickly became a museum and a place to educate school children, the community, and more. “There are three elementary schools nearby, and they did maybe five or six tours a year,” Parivechio says. “If they had a teacher who enjoyed teaching earth science or geology, they’d bring their students over for a tour.”
But even with the quarry’s meeting room and museum, there just weren’t that many students coming to the quarry because it wasn’t well known — until the Wienman Museum (now TELLUS Northwest Georgia Science Center) brought some teachers to the quarry as part of a workshop. “The Weinman hosted a week-long workshop for North Georgia earth science teachers, and one full day was spent at Kennesaw Quarry,” Parivechio says. “There were 33 teachers in that group. Those teachers went back to different parts of the state, and people learned about us by word of mouth. The following year, I had 10,000 students visit the quarry. I never had to pick up the phone or advertise.”
When the children from local schools started visiting the museum and attending the education sessions, parents would sometimes come along. Before long, Vulcan was able to get the aggregate story out to just about everyone in the community. But it didn’t stop at the elementary, middle, or high school level. “We’ve always had local college groups come, but last year we had college students and their teachers visit from five states,” Parivechio says, “and we also had industry groups visit from three different countries.”
Parivechio conducts the tours, with logistical help from the plant employees and safety department. Safety is paramount and a safety briefing and review of the rules of conduct while on the property are always the first order of business. “We are advocates for our business and industry, but it is important that we incorporate information from the schools’ earth science curriculum,” Parivechio says. Students are shown different kinds of aggregate and videos depicting the production process and how the products are used.
“We try to keep the message entertaining, as well, by showing them the ‘Rockman’ video,” she adds, referring to the video set to the tune of “YMCA” which describes the production of and uses for aggregate.
“We cover a little bit of everything — just enough to make it exciting,” Parivechio says. “This may be the only time a student comes into a rock quarry, and I want it to be a positive experience. That’s why the teachers keep coming back every year. We give them a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of fun.”
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