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Dubuque students help construct tiny houses

September 22, 2018

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Students at Dubuque Community Schools’ Alta Vista Campus worked together last week to lift a set of floor joists, setting them down on a nearby trailer.

While construction is just getting started, those boards eventually will help form the floor of a tiny house the students are building.

“I can’t wait to see what it looks like at the end of the year,” said Ethan Wilson, a high school junior in the district’s Alternative Learning Center program.

The Telegraph Herald reports that ALC students are spending this school year constructing the tiny house, which, when finished, will come complete with plumbing, electrical wiring, a bathroom, full kitchen and bedroom space.

The project aims to expose students to potential career opportunities while helping them engage with their education, according to district officials and staff. That comes as school officials seek to give students more opportunities to think about life after high school.

“It empowers those students both to learn and to develop skills,” said Mark Burns, the district’s director of secondary education. “It builds confidence and then, hopefully, helps them become successful individuals.”

Earlier this week, students in a construction class at the Alternative Learning Center busied themselves with saws, hammers and measuring tapes as they worked on the project. The ALC serves 11th- and 12th-graders who are considered at risk of dropping out of school, offering an alternative to traditional high schools.

A different group of students designed the house last school year. This year, students in construction classes will work to bring the structure to life.

They will have a hand in every aspect of the construction process, including framing, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, cabinetry and flooring.

“Our hope with it is to get kids excited about trade-related fields, to know that they’re viable,” said Joe Bormann, construction teacher at the ALC.

Once completed, the 160-square-foot house will include a loft that can be used as a bedroom; a bathroom with a shower, vanity and toilet; a full kitchen and a multi-use space.

The structure will be solar-powered — with the option to hook it up to an electrical grid — and have storage space for at least one week’s worth of water. The house is being constructed on a trailer and will be mobile.

Eventually, the house will be sold, and the funds used to pay for a future construction project, Bormann said.

Through the project, students will have the chance to work with employees from area businesses, which Bormann thinks could help them as they look for jobs in the future.

They also get the chance to create something they can take pride in, Bormann said.

“It’s also exposing them to a work field and career field they may not be aware of,” he said.

Under the Dubuque Community School District’s strategic plan, officials have put a focus on student college and career readiness, Burns said. That includes a goal that, by 2023, 100 percent of graduates will have had a college or career experience while in school.

“This is certainly an experience that is preparing those students for that,” Burns said.

Ethan said he long has had an interest in construction and regularly takes classes related to the field. So when he saw the chance to join with the tiny house project, he decided to get involved.

“It’s a lot of new experiences and learning,” he said. “Every day, it’s a different task to get the house complete.”

He added that the project helps him hone his skills working in groups. He eventually plans to seek a career in the construction field and figures the experience could help him there, too.

“It’s just something new every day,” he said. “That’s probably the best part about it.”

Gabby Fondell, a senior in the ALC program, said the tiny house project seems to have built up interest among students in taking construction classes.

“Anybody can build a stool, but not everyone can build a house,” she said.

Gabby said she appreciates the hands-on nature of building the tiny house.

“We can actually go outside and do stuff, and it’s not just for a grade,” she said. “We’re actually building this and selling (it).”


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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