YME students are once again back at work building this year’s student house in the school parking lot. The project (now going on nearly 20 years) is part of carpentry class and is taught by YME teacher Barry Weidauer.
Weidauer, who has a professional background in carpentry, has experimented with different house designs during his years of teaching the class. Recently, Weidauer settled on a design that includes three bedrooms, a walk-in closet, a master bathroom, and an open floor living/kitchen/dining space. He explains that the open floor concept is increasingly popular. Weidauer has also begun using structurally insulated panels and new LP Smartside, which he says makes the house more energy efficient.
According to Weidauer, the purpose of the class is to teach students the basics of carpentry and home construction. Step-by-step, students learn how to properly follow safety guidelines, measure and cut wood, operate different construction tools, apply siding, install doors and windows, hang drywall, and much more. It’s a great class “because it gives students a chance to have a real-world, hands on experience,” Weidauer explains.
Most of the students who participate in the class have little to no prior carpentry experience. For these students, the very beginning of class is understandably daunting. “As a teacher, if I had to learn on the job, Weidauer said, I would think it would be impossible to teach the class.” He joked that while it’s fun to watch students attempt to swing a hammer, by the end of the year, “they get pretty good.”
Still, Weidauer says that when students choose to get involved, that is when the real learning begins. “The more you do, the more you learn,” he says, adding that students who stand on the sideline don’t benefit as much from the class.
Weidauer says that he tries to purchase the building materials from inside the school district, explaining that it’s nice when YME and local businesses can support each other. Local professionals do the electrical, plumbing, taping, and texturing components of the house (parts that are beyond the ability of most high schoolers).
Reflecting on student growth during the class, Weidauer concedes that most students “aren’t professionals after they get out of here,” adding that “it takes a lot more to become a professional.”
While only a few students eventually go on to pursue careers in carpentry, electrical, and plumbing, Weidauer believes that students still learn important skills that will come in handy when they eventually become homeowners themselves. For him, helping them along in this process, is the best part of the job.