5 Reasons House-Building Should Be a Part of High School Curriculum

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Image: U.S. Army by Gregory Ripps

By now, we’ve grown accustomed to calls for more career and technical education in high school.

The reason for these calls is twofold. First, not everyone will go to college, so giving students an introduction to other career alternatives gives them life purpose and direction. Second, practical life skills like woodworking and welding are fast disappearing from society. Students who know how to perform them on their own will have a decided advantage and independence over those who do not.

But incorporating basic life skills into the high school curriculum benefits students beyond these two basic reasons, as one school in Eureka, Missouri is discovering.

According to the Hechinger Report, Eureka High School has made house building the central feature of one of its geometry classes. Students do their homework and then head to their tiny house project to put the principles they’ve learned into practice. Both students and teachers have grown to love the project for the following five reasons:

1. It’s Challenging
Actually applying geometry principles in real life is a lot harder than simply regurgitating them on a test. Students may have to think outside the box to determine how to make their house work out. And as Scott Burke, the developer of the house building program, explains, this has caused tears for even those who are known to be honors students.

2. It Prevents Slacking
Those who are used to checking a box and getting away with as little work as possible are also in for a surprise. Students are required to do their homework if they want to participate in the fun of building. As one student put it, “You actually have to try in this class.”

3. It’s Useful
Many students hate school because they simply can’t see the point. Incorporating geometry into construction, however, helps students make connections and see the usefulness of math—something they might miss otherwise.

4. It’s Memorable
Because the hands-on building experience is useful and applicable in the real world, the concepts are much easier for students to retain. As a principal from another school district implementing the program noted:

“It adds relevancy to mathematics. If it’s something that they created, something that they’ve done, they’re going to remember that content far better than if they memorized it for a test.”

5. It Promotes Higher Achievement

Although the Hechinger Report acknowledges that no hard data yet exists about the academic outcomes of such a program, anecdotal evidence suggests it gives the students a decent advantage over their peers:

“When Eureka High sophomore Casey Baker checked with his classmates in other geometry classes, he discovered something that made him smile. In terms of learning geometry concepts, his [construction geometry] class was far ahead of theirs.

For years, America’s school system has tried to educate within the boundaries of four walls and uninspiring text books. If achievement rates are any indication, such a plan isn’t working. Do more schools need to think outside the box and begin using more practical, real-life ways to instill basic concepts in students?


This post 5 Reasons House-Building Should Be a Part of High School Curriculum was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Annie Holmquist.

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  • John Decker

    Who is the cave man who started doing things in school that make sense? He’ll never be elected President of the teacher’s union! My God! If they keep this up, the next thing you know, they’ll resurrect shop classes, and children will actually build useful things and get their hands dirty! And it’s about time! How many reading this can replace a leaky faucet, or an electrical switch or outlet? Repair brakes on a car? Put a new roof on your house? Is your job ticky ticky ticky on a computer all day? When is the last time you fixed something with your hands? Do you even know how? Getting these kids to apply the learning from their geometry class with their hands is a great idea! Today’s students are “taught” all sorts of things, but never get the opportunity to apply their learning to anything concrete. It’s all theory with no application. It’s great that they’re all computer experts, but how many of them do we need? People who know how things work, and how to fix them are getting really scarce. And the main problem is the elitist way of looking down on people who get their hands dirty. I spent 20+ years fixing cars, and because I knew how, I got every motor and transmission that got towed in. 4 cyl.,6,8, air cooled, gas, diesel, carburated, fuel injection, standard trans, automatic, 4 spd., 5 spd.,FWD, RWD, rear differential, you name it, I fixed it. After years of crap pay, I threw all that knowledge away and got a job at the Post Office making 2 1/2 times the money for a job that takes no knowledge except reading, and the ability to function no matter what the weather does. So, if your car breaks, I know how to fix it, but don’t call me. I’m retired. And if today’s kids listen in school, they can fix things themselves, because there won’t be anybody else.

  • R. T.

    You are totally correct , when I was in school shop class was for those that did not want to go to college or go into debt .
    How much more do they actually make after paying off the debt ???

  • Igor

    When I was taking Circuit Theory in college, the instructor would look at me after showing us a circuit design, and he’d ask me, “Mr. Igor, what does this circuit apply to?” He knew I cut my teeth on electronics repair before I was even in High School, and after I got out of the Military and went back to College I had worked with and been exposed to even more equipment.
    I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was using me to show that these theoretical circuits we were working with had PRACTICAL uses, not just “theory”!!
    Lesson learned!!