- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (AP) - The old adage “Home is where you make it” is being taken quite literally in a South Sioux City High School shop class.

Members of Intro to Construction, Construction I and Advanced Construction have been assigned the task of building a modular simulation home from the ground up.

Aside from building the structure, students will also fill its 10-foot-by-12-foot frame with the usual features of a house, including plumbing, electricity, windows, siding and floors. Curtains, cabinets and exterior masonry will also be added.

Instructor Joe Krajicek said practicality was the inspiration behind the project. Before this year, shop class consisted of traditional woodworking, constructing clocks and cabinets. Aside from the construction of the home, students also had input in the blueprint of the structure. Krajicek said math and critical thinking also play an integral role in the project.

“We started looking at ways we could prepare our kids and started thinking about what we could do that would be more realistic,” he told the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/1QlglYi).

A project that reinforces construction abilities and also ties in housekeeping procedures such as sink maintenance and breaker repairs, Krajicek said, readies a student for the beginning of a career.

Krajicek said area professionals, including a local electrician and plumbers, have also dropped into the class to give insight into careers available that extend beyond construction. At the same time, employers catch a glimpse of capable students who may be employees in the near future.

“They’re the next labor force,” he said. “We’re teaching relevant things the local workforce is short on.”

Even if a student isn’t interested in a construction career, Krajicek said the lessons will prep him or her for future life as a homeowner. Students will learn skills such as installing toilet paper holders and gutter upkeep.

Junior Omar Guerrero said while he wasn’t necessarily pursuing a career in construction, lessons learned will be stored for everyday use and knowledge.

“This’ll give us an advantage,” he said. “If there’s a problem in the house, we can fix it.

“If I ever have kids and they want a playhouse, we have the basic knowledge and experience to build one for them,” he said.

Guerrero said he has his mind on a career in the medical field but could see himself putting his lessons to work as a summer job before college.

His classmate, senior Carlos Garcia, on the other hand, planned to enter the carpentry field immediately after high school. Garcia said the ability to gain real world experience before entering the field is “a great privilege.”

“I’ll have the knowledge how to do certain things and not start from the bottom,” he said, as he stood inside the home’s frame.

Since the project began, Garcia said he’s also become interested in the electrical and plumbing aspects of home-building and is looking forward to installing the wiring in the house.

The enthusiasm shown by Garcia and Guererro is indicative of the class’ reception. Krajicek said since day one, the students in both the first- and third-hour classes have come into class and gone straight to work. Students are evaluated on their work much like a foreman would analyze his employees, taking both team and individual performance into account.

“What I care about is, can you do it?” he said. “Don’t tell me . show me you can do it and even better, can you teach one of your classmates how to do it.”

Krajicek said while the students strive for perfection, mistakes are as equal a part of learning as installing a rafter or wire.

“As they go, I see the mistakes they make, but I don’t bring it up,” he said. “The goal is … when you screw something up and you have to spend your whole day fixing it, you aren’t going to make that mistake again.”

As the first time students have attempted such a project, Krajicek said it’ll be a learning process. After this year, he said the program may expand to a larger project or be broken down into test homes to spend more time on electrical, plumbing and construction steps.

Whatever the next step, Krajicek said, students will be more engaged and better prepared for careers, as well as everyday life as a whole.

“You want to do things where you are valuable to your employer, to your community and have skills people don’t have,” he said.

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