Archived Story

Underwood students learn life skills by building home

Published 11:04am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Each year for the past seven years, a house has been constructed by students on the edge of the Underwood High School parking lot. But for industrial arts teacher Chad Gronner, the project is more about gaining valuable life skills than knowing how to handle a hammer.

“If you are ever going to own a home, or even live in apartment, you will need to know maintenance and repair skills,” said Gronner.

The students — this year it is 17 boys — have a hands-on learning opportunity, from foundation and concrete work and framing, to finish carpentry, roofing and hanging drywall. Licensed plumbers and electri-




cians are brought in, but the kids do all the heavy lifting for those trades too.

“It improves their work ethic over the course of the project — they need to work as a team and communicate,” said Gronner. “But this is hard work, and I make it clear, this is like a job and you won’t get paid.”

While there are no girls participating this year, there have been in the past, and according to Gronner, while everyone has to carry their own weight girls can benefit just as much.

“I’ve had girls come back after graduation and say ‘I wish I would have taken your course because now I have to have my boyfriend or dad help me fix things,’” said Gronner.

Life skills are not the only valuable lessons. Some students do go on to be a carpenter or work in electrical or plumbing trades.

Gronner, who has been teaching at Underwood for ten years, said they used build a smaller project, but building a house covers so many more opportunities for learning, including working with contractors and meeting inspection deadlines.

The homes are generally a good value when compared to other simple construction model homes.

“Once a bid is accepted, the owner can have input on design,” said school superintendent Dr. Jeremiah Olson. “We then negotiate the costs on the target price for the end of the project.”

Olson explained that if not all items are completed by the end of school, the owner may receive a credit on the final accounting. The home currently being built is a 38 foot by 48 foot with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, that will also have a full basement. The home owner is preparing the basement on-site at their own expense.

There is a target price for the project home of $40,000, which does not include some costs that are paid directly by the home owner, such as the electrical and plumbing contractor, and the contractor to tape, top and texture the drywall. The expense of moving the home to the owner’s lot is also borne by the home owner.

“The homes are ideal for someone wanting a simple home for their lake lot,” said Gronner.

Those interested in submitting a bid for next year’s home should contact Olson before the end of school.

“We take bids in May or June,” said Olson. “Overall, it has been a very positive experience.”

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