Anoka-Hennepin Student-Built Homes Case Study

As of the 2023-24 school year, Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools students have been building homes for more than 20 years.  The case study below describes some of what has happened in the past, and what’s happening during the 2023-24 school year.  Students typically spend two hours per day working on this project through the district’s STEP program.  Thanks to John Almos, Brian LaMotte, Jessica Lipa and some A-H students who shared information for this case study.

Here’s a link to a 90 second video that shows the three-bedroom home that A-H students built during the 2022-23 school year. This house was subsequently sold, like other houses that the students have produced.   Here’s an outside view of that house.

* What background/work experience prepared you to teach/run this program? Two teachers are involved in the Anoka-Hennepin House Construction program.  One is a carpentry teacher, the other a teacher helping students learn to build cabinets.

John Almos, who specializes in cabinet making, did this for six years through college, and then for six years after college. He also did residential cabinet making from his home for 11 years. His supervisor calls him “a kid magnet” because students like working with him so much.

Mr. Almos

Carpentry teacher Brian LaMotte did an apprenticeship in carpentry when he was a high school student in North St Paul.

He’s pictured below outside the house that students are building in the 23-24 school year, with STEP’s director, Jessica Lipa.   Lipa has served as president of Minnesota’s Association for Career Technical Program Administrators.

 

Jessica Lipa and Brian LaMotte

* What are examples of partnerships that have helped make this program work?

The school district has developed partnerships with Hennepin Tech College and Anoka Technical College, so that the high school students can earn college credits in this program.

Fleetwood has a cabinet vision software program which is enormously valuable in helping student design doors and cabinets.

What advice would you give to other people considering creating a program to teach

 construction skills?

·      Make sure you have teachers with actual construction experience and who likes working with high School students.

Seek out industry partnerships.  Look for software that companies are using, so that students can be trained on state-of-the-art techniques.

·      Ensure that there are meaningful tasks for students to do every day.  You don’t want students sitting or standing around, bored.

 

A-H students working inside the home they’re building in the 2023-24 school year

What are examples of partnerships that have helped make this program work?

The school district has developed partnerships with Hennepin Tech College and Anoka Technical College, so that the high school students can earn college credits in this program.

Fleetwood has a cabinet vision software program which is enormously valuable in helping students design doors and cabinets.

What advice would you give to other people considering creating a program to teach

 construction skills?

·      Make sure you have teachers with actual construction experience and who likes working with high School students.

Seek out industry partnerships.  Look for software that companies are using, so that students can be trained on state-of-the-art techniques.

·      Ensure that there are meaningful tasks for students to do every day.  You don’t want students sitting or standing around, bored.

 

What that you’ve done would you strongly encourage others to do?  

·      Recognize that building with students is much slower than building with professionals.

·      It can take two years to complete a home.

 Are there any mistakes or unexpected negative outcomes that, if possible, people should

 try to avoid?  

·      Build your budget so that you will take into student will make mistakes. For example, students learn to

cut a piece of plywood might (and sometimes do) make a mistake, so the wood can’t be used in the way it was intended.

·      Safety is critical.  This needs to be emphasized and re-emphasized with students.

·      Recognize that state law requires that if you’re going to sell the house, it has to be sold via a bidding process.  This can be cumbersome.

·      People need to recognize that these homes are considered in a special category.  Make sure the relevant housing inspectors understand what you are doing.

Recognizing it varies from home to home, what is the approximate budget for the homebuilding projects?    

Jessica estimates that the overall cost of a three-bedroom house is $80-90,000, not including the

Land.  Students build the homes in the parking lot of the school’s campus.  Then it is sold to

the highest bidder, and that the house has to be sold via an on-line notice.  People looking

for a house often don’t look on a school district’s website– so other efforts have to be made so

people know that the house is available for purchase.

 

A-H students working on a house during the 2023-24 school year.

Student Comments:

Regan Glasgow, 18 told us: “I wanted to get into plumbing. This program helps me with a lot of fundamentals.  I hope to have job stability and want to go straight into plumbing.

Another student told us: “The best part of this is the learning experience and actually building a home. I’m definitely interested in the trades but have not yet decided what field I want to concentrate on.”

Anything else you’d like educators/community members to know?  

One of Lipa’s colleagues at Hennepin Tech explained,

“The best thing you can teach kids is to love it.  Help them have a positive experience.”

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CSC deeply appreciates assistance from A-H educators and students in preparing this case study.  We are entirely responsible for any inaccurate information that accidentally appears in the case study, though we know of none.