By Patty Cooke / June 22, 2017

Scaled approach to constructing real-world skills

DOTHAN, AL – Engaging students – and holding their attention – can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But when students come to school hungry, tired, distracted by problems at home, or dealing with other issues, it can be a recipe for failure.

Teachers and administrators at Honeysuckle Middle School in Dothan, Alabama, are adding some new ingredients to that recipe – and changing the outcome.

The Title I school, one of the lowest-performing in the Dothan City Schools, began incorporating Pitsco STEM labs and products into the curriculum at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. One of those products, Pitsco’s Utility Building Framing Kit 101, part of an after-school STEM program, has Principal Jeff Torrence and STEM Lab Facilitator Alvin Wiggins excited for their students.

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The kit, which contains all the materials, templates, instructions, and basic construction information needed to build a 1 in.:1 ft model of a utility building, gives students rudimentary experience in construction. “This actually looks like a real house frame!” said Torrence. “We’re able to give our students this experience on how to measure, how to frame, how to cut. And those things are skills that are learned over a lifetime. And most of the time you have to work in that field in order to learn it.”

Wiggins particularly likes the real-world terminology and high engagement inherent in the kit. “What I liked about it was the fact that all the materials and the verbiage is the same verbiage that regular construction workers use. So, if I wanted to build that shed in my backyard, I can go and take this list to [the hardware store], and it would give me every piece in real life.”

Modeling real life

That gave Wiggins an idea: Why not have the students build an actual, full-scale shed? “We’re doing it on a small scale first [with the kits],” Wiggins explained. After that, he said, “The plan is to build a full-size shed this coming school year and donate it in the community.”

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The project will do more than teach the fundamentals of construction. It will give the students concrete, tangible connections between what they’re learning and the world outside their classroom windows, and it will show them how to engage with the community. “We’re excited about it,” said Torrence. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our kids to really learn some skills like that. You don’t get that every day in your normal schools.”

Honeysuckle students are lucky to have caring educators willing to stray from the recipe to bring about great results. How does your school or district teach real-world, 21st-century skills?

Read more about the exciting changes at Dothan City Schools.

Get details on the Utility Building Framing Kit 101.

TOPICS: IN THE CLASSROOM, Middle School, BEYOND THE CLASSROOM, IDEAS & INSPIRATION

Patty Cooke

Written by Patty Cooke

Hello! I work as a communications assistant here at Pitsco, editing, writing, helping with publications, and working with other departments to help create awesome STEM materials and resources. I learned my love of storytelling from my dad, who constantly entertained me and my 11 siblings with the most fascinating, albeit fictional, stories. His tales kept us out of our mother’s hair for a while and probably saved her sanity. Our blog posts aren’t fictional, of course, but I still enjoy infusing the same amount of fun that Dad put into his stories. I hope reading these posts brings you equal enjoyment.