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Iowa high school students building skills through home building

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ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa (KTIV) -- The sounds of construction are in full swing in Rock Rapids, Iowa.

But, you won't see any workers over the age of 20 at this site. At Central Lyon High School, the students are building homes.

"We knew we wanted to get into building construction, but kind of building a house from the get-go is kind of a big task and so we decided well let’s try tiny house," said Central Lyon High School Industrial Technology Instructor Grant Engel.

The idea just continued to get bigger each year in the "building trades" program at the high school.

Students built their first 20-foot tiny house four years ago. The next year, it was a 24 footer, and last year they built a 41-foot tiny home.

For the fourth year in a row, students at Central Lyon High School are building another house. This one bigger than ever: sitting at 1,500 square feet.

"The first year they're hesitant about doing anything because they don't want to make a mistake," said Engel. "Then they kind of learn from me, making mistakes is kind of the process. You might have to do something over and we're going to learn how to do it right."

Engel said this class is teaching students skills they will use for the rest of their life. Tatum Jensen knows that first hand.

"I want to go into architecture or some sort of engineering," said Jensen. "Knowing this stuff, I'll be able to do it in my own home when I get older and it's just really valuable stuff."

Jensen said she really enjoys being a part of the class because it's so unique.

"It's not heard of high schools building a house," said Jensen. "It just kind of shows like women can be the tough people who do the dirty work and it's just really fun to do."

"It's incredible," said Engel. "I can't even put into words how awesome it is to see that growth. You know you put an opportunity in front of kids and they just take it and run with it. From the tiny houses we built, to now this house, the kids just take so much pride into it. It's just incredible.”

It'll be more than a year before another class starts a new house.

Engel said they'll finish the interior of the home by the end of next school year. The next step will be to find someone to buy the home.

Dean Welte

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