Help Wanted: 180 Teens Interested in Construction Need Materials

By on February 1, 2018

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

This week we paid a visit to the Rockwood School District to get a firsthand look at an innovative program that has appeared on the ConstructForSTL website a couple of times in recent weeks. The district has implemented a “Geometry in Construction” curriculum developed by Contextual Learning Concepts, LLC, a company started in 2005 by two Colorado teachers.

The program relates geometry to the hands-on work of construction — in the case of Rockwood building tiny houses as transitional housing for the homeless. Rockwood paid $1,695 per instructor to Contextual, in return for which they received training and access to the curriculum.

A $15,000 grant from the St. Louis Homebuilders Association jump started the program. Students taking the geometry/hands-on construction class range from students in the district’s alternative program (pregnancy, incarceration and other issues) to AP math students.

Students acknowledge that the applied geometry classes are tougher than regular math classes. Get the geometry wrong and you’re tearing out work or building walls that aren’t square.

And instructors hold students to a high standard in areas such as teamwork and completion of homework. Still the word has gotten out that the programs are interesting and rewarding.

Growing Pains 

Career and Technical Education teachers, who were some of the biggest skeptics of the program when it started last fall are now the biggest fans. Kim Litzau, coordinator for Rockwood’s Partners in Education business/school connection said that instructors are so enthusiastic that they’re coming out on the weekends to chart the progress of the tiny houses and plan for the next week. (When the houses are completed they will be trucked to sites in North St. Louis on land owned by a non-profit, North Grand Services.)

But the program is now facing growing pains as word of mouth spreads among district high school students. This Tuesday Bob Deneau, district K-12 STEM coordinator said that the program had spread to four sites in the district from the initial two. The total number of students, with enrollment still open, was around 180.

And therein lies the rub. Rockwood needs help in the form of building supplies — from lumber, drywall, and nails to roofing, electrical components, and plumbing. The CTE instructors also welcome a hand from those in the construction industry in terms of technical expertise.

So there it is: 180-plus teens with an interest in construction — potentially part of tomorrow’s workforce. But without help from the construction industry they won’t be able to feed that interest.

If you or your organization would like to help, please contact Kim Litzau, coordinator, Rockwood Partners in Education, telephone 636.733.2121, email .


About Tom Finan