AASD students are hands-on with Habitat
Posted on 01/27/2020
For over 20 years the Appleton Area School District (AASD) has built a house from the ground up through our House Construction class. This high school class engages students in real-world experiences in all aspects of the construction field and strongly resembles the pace and expectations of an actual construction site. The added benefit is that the student’s hard work and learning leads to a new home for a deserving family.

Under the guidance of the school build instructor, approximately 18 students from all three Appleton high schools spend two hours each school day engaged in an interactive, hands-on curriculum covering a wide range of construction topics and skills. Students don’t only learn about one skill such as tiling or cabinet making—they actively work at the job site, gaining real-world experience across a diverse set of construction-related and interpersonal skills.

This year the AASD has a new school build instructor, Dave Cash. Cash has always enjoyed building and working on anything and everything and has worked as a pipefitter, plumber, roofer, framer, heavy equipment operator, and welder. He started teaching in 2005 and the opportunity to share his experiences in the trades is a big reason why he became a teacher. He likes to tell his students, “once you learn a trade you will always have a job”. 

There are many challenges that must be overcome to give our students a great educational experience when building a house. So, three years ago we entered into a partnership with the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity that has resolved many of these challenges. With the assistance of a $75,000 sponsorship each year from a local donor, and the organizational support from Habitat we are able to provide an outstanding learning experience for our students. This year we thank the family of Keith Niemuth for the estate gift that is helping to fund this home.

When Instructor Cash asks our students what they think so far this build, they’ve said they enjoy “learning by doing” the most. Working individually, as well as a team, students develop skills in the areas of site development, design, estimating and bidding, preparing and setting foundations, framing, utilities, interior and exterior finishing, and site completion.

The Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity partners with qualified families to create safe, well-built and affordable housing. These families take financial literacy and homeownership courses and contribute 300-500 of sweat equity hours toward the construction of their home and the homes of other Habitat families. Our students work alongside their staff to build a new home first semester and remodel an existing home second semester. 

Cash says that “the interaction between students and the senior crew from Habitat is a great experience for all involved. I like to see knowledge passed from generation to generation. The art of face to face conversation and information sharing between the generations is an important skill we need to keep going.”

Many students that have taken part in house builds have then gone on to pursue successful construction careers, including positions performing carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. 

Learn more about AASD’s House Construction Class.
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