Today's class project? Build a house from scratch

14th April 2006 at 01:00

Most school projects end up gathering dust in an attic or basement. But the work by students Nicki Anderson, Matthew Carpenter, Tori Goble and Rob McDougall will be seen for decades to come - they are helping to build a detached house that will be sold on the market.

"It has already become something of a local landmark," says Joe Irvin, who runs the Construction Trades Coop Program at Almonte district high school, about 35 miles west of Canada's capital, Ottawa, Ontario.

"People drive by and stop and look at the house and the kids, who are not just watching tradesmen but are building a real house that people will soon be living in."

The programme, catering for up to 40 students a year from two schools, was set up to keep students at risk of dropping out engaged in school and introduce 16 to 18-year-olds to the building trades. "Students who do not learn well behind a desk can succeed here where they have to use skills like measuring to cut a 2 x 4 read and understand installation instructions. And here they get to see the end product of their work."

The two-bedroom house is situated in a residential street in Almonte.

Nicki Anderson, 17, agrees. "I'm not made for school work. But the four days a week I'm building this house I learn a lot and it makes the fifth day, when I have to be in school for two classes, bearable."

Helping kids see the importance of the building trades is what excited plasterboarder Randy Sampson, 42, about the programme. "Today, there's not a lot of interest in the trades. So if I can show kids both how satisfying drywalling (plasterboarding) a house can be - how in a day it can go from just the frames to walls and ceilings being in place - I feel I've taught them something worthwhile."

The students have worked with plumbers, electricians and gas fitters.

"With the electricians the students did all the wiring and they double-checked it. Building Code regulations meant that they could not do the gas fittings, but they watched how a licensed gas-fitter does his job,"

says Mr Irvin.

He says despite their inexperience, the students' work is remarkably free of errors. The biggest occurred when they were framing the front wall.

"Somebody measured wrong and the holes for the window frames were too narrow. Taking apart the frame and putting it together correctly set the crew back about fivehours. They learned a great lesson about careful measuring."

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