Hands-on know-how

They start the morning like the rest of their schoolmates: in class, studying math, English or religion. But at 10:30 a.m. the bus swings around, picks them up and carts the eleven students from St. Mary’s High School and Resurrection Secondary School to a work site on Dolman Street in Breslau. There they work away for the remainder of the day.

The fruit of their labour? A new home that already appears to be a popular choice.

The student-built home in Breslau, constructed with very careful attention to detail, has already sold.
The student-built home in Breslau, constructed with very careful attention to detail, has already sold.

“They actually sold the house,” explained Jo-Ann McCabe, Ontario Youth  Apprenticeship Program ((OYAP) coordinator for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

Under the supervision of representatives of the builder, Empire Communities, and their teachers, students from both schools have used their skills in the construction of a house at the Riverland Community in Breslau. They started their labour of love – and realization of their class curriculum – last February, celebrating a completion of the job last week.

The partnership between the builder and the school board is meant to provide students with career direction by connecting them with the skilled trade industries. While earning credits for their work, the students also build on valuable skills that are meant to last a lifetime.

The Home Build program is offered through the Experiential Learning Department of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. This five-month, hands-on learning initiative is available to students in the construction co-op program. Along with developing skills, students get a chance to make contacts with people in the industry.

Empire Communities provides the lot as well as the materials for the project, and lays the foundations of the building. The students, under the supervision of teachers and Empire representatives, work on the framing, building the home in one semester. From February until June – rain, snow, or shine, the 11 or so students have worked on the structure.

The experience provides them with ample opportunity to use some of the skills they learned in class.

“The students get to apply their core curriculum such as their math skills, science skills and communications skills – when you have a chance to apply hands-on learning it makes sense of why you’re doing many of the subjects and especially the math at school,” said McCabe, adding that rigorous safety training is also a priority.

Through the program, students receive certification in the area that they are concentrating in, and it “opens their eyes in terms of it being a viable career path and the different career directions,” she said.

After this program, students may choose to pursue carpentry, heating, ventilation and cooling, or brick and stone work, for example.

“There’s so many career paths that they could go into.”

The benefits of the educative home build appear to go both ways.

“They say that the houses built by the students are extremely well constructed because, especially, with the number of nails that are used, evenly spaced … they’re taking so many precautions to make sure it is perfect and that it meets the expectations of the builder.”

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