Thrifty Thursday: The New Shop Class

More and more schools are discovering the value of hands-on education as part of their technical curriculum. Whether students see physical trades as a useful life skill or just want a break from academic subjects, building classes are in high demand wherever they’re offered. I’ve discussed organized building projects for students on this blog before (for example); here are a couple more.

In Alaska, the most popular class at Tri-Valley High School is “Building Trades.” The class learns carpentry skills by building a small cabin each semester. The insulated 2×6 cabins then become employee housing at nearby Denali National Park, replacing a variety of seasonal structures. Since student labor is free, it’s a great deal for the park to provide materials and tools for each year’s projects. It also amounts to free outreach as community residents can see the cabins in progress on school grounds. (They’re trailered to the park upon completion.) Now in its 17th year, the partnership earned Tri-Valley High School the George and Helen Hartzog Youth Volunteer Group Award in 2016.


Student-built employee housing in Denali National Park.

In Wisconsin, a class at Sun Prairie High School builds a complete residential house every year. Technology Education teacher Justin Zander instructs the class and plans each year’s project, including buying land and permitting. This course is for students who seek a career in carpentry and other trades to replace an aging skilled workforce; nevertheless, it’s over-enrolled every year. Each house is sold when finished, and the proceeds fund the program for the following year.

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