ETHS hosts open house for latest student-constructed home

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(Rachel Kupfer/The Daily Northwestern)

An Evanston Township High School student-made home, 2142 Dewey Ave. ETHS students in “Geometry in Construction” built the house as a way of providing affordable housing to Evanston residents.

Gabby Birenbaum, Reporter

Evanston Township High School teachers, students and community members gathered Tuesday to tour the latest house built by the school’s “Geometry in Construction” class.

The public could view the two-story house, located at 2142 Dewey Ave. in Evanston’s 5th Ward, during an open house. The class — which has built three houses in the past five years — combines a traditional geometry curriculum with a construction course. The houses, which are sold through Community Partners for Affordable Housing, were created to provide affordable housing for Evanston residents, said Amy Kaufman, the nonprofit’s associate director.

ETHS math department chair Dale Leibforth said the high school added the course five years ago when his predecessor heard about a Colorado high school with a similar initiative.

Students constructed the shell of the house — the floors, walls, roof, windows and doors — in the school’s parking lot, said Maryjoy Heineman, one of the course’s teachers. While building, students learn how to work together and read directions in addition to mastering basic construction techniques, Heineman said.

Leibforth told The Daily that the construction planning is an example of “mathematics being used in a real-world setting.”

“There’s a lot of right triangles in building. There’s measurement,” he said. “Obviously, you have a scale drawing. To take a scale drawing and to blow it up, you deal with similarity. You have a 2-D mapping of the house turn into a three-dimensional shape. We have a lot of those ideas come together.”

In addition to learning geometry and construction training, students also develop practical abilities, Heineman said. Students learn how to work with different people, be persistent and ask good questions, she said.

Heineman added that students also learn the nuances and discrepancies between classroom math and applied math.

“In math, there’s a right answer,” she told The Daily. “When it comes to building, we have to talk about craftsmanship. If you make mistakes it’s OK, but your only choice is to fix it.”

ETHS freshman Sahaara Clark, who is currently enrolled in the class, said the construction “helps put math into context.”

Clark said she enjoys the hands-on approach to math the class offers in contrast to a traditional classroom experience. She added that her class is in the process of building the latest home.

ETHS senior Edgar Torres, who worked on the completed house, said he also acquired a different outlook on math while experiencing the construction process.

“My dad works as a construction man, so it related to what he did,” Torres told The Daily. “It made me make a connection with my family.”

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th), who spoke during the open house, said the program encompasses “everything that’s great” about Evanston.

“This partnership is really special,” Simmons said. “It’s meeting so many needs that we have; introducing our students to a career path, workforce development, providing affordable housing. It’s something unique, and that speaks to who we are in Evanston.”

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