Chloe Ihle scraped the slag off melted iron that had reached 2,400 degrees and was flowing from the cupola furnace. Crystals were forming, the Central High School junior later explained, and it was her job to make sure they didn't get into classmates' art projects.
"It was unbelievable," Ihle, 17, said. "I automatically put my big girl pants on."
Central High School students spent the past semester learning the science behind their art during a class project funded by a
La Crosse Public Education Foundation Innovation Grant.
Art teacher Lori Aschenbrener and science teacher Joe Angleheart helped 10 teens research and sculpt images of renowned scientists, such as Galileo, Aristotle and Robert Boyle, before going to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to create molds for making those images into iron tiles.
"Sometimes people don't see the connection between art and science or art and other areas," Aschenbrener said.
"This project was not solely about art or an individual," she said.
"It provided real-life experiences of working as a team and extensive problem-solving, and connected chemistry and physics with art."
The iron pour project introduced freshman Sofie Kozidis, 15, to art forms she'd never tried and science she'd never learned.
"Everything was interesting," she said. "It was a great experience. ... I liked looking at art and science this way."
Being on the UW-La Crosse campus gave senior Erin Rademacher the opportunity to work with sculpture professor Cambid J. Choy and meet students she could see in class this fall.
And while Rademacher, 18, was willing to use the power tools needed to create her art, she stayed away from the hot iron.
"I was too scared. I usually do printmaking," she said.
Working on the project did, however, make Rademacher realize, "I can do other things" when it comes to art.
"It was definitely a new learning experience," 17-year-old senior Amy Kallenbach said. "Everything we did was new."
The school had a dedication ceremony for the 10 sculptures Tuesday, after they had been hung above Central's Green Bay Street entrance last week by school custodian Mike Frybler and district carpenter John Colsch.