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The Construction Tech Experience

Class Designs and Adds Needed Building to Campus


When asked about the unique programs MANS has to offer, recently appointed principal Mike Willing speaks with palpable enthusiasm. He has several reasons to be so cheerful—the welding, construction, agriculture, and after school sports programs are all highly popular with students. The skills they develop as a result are practical and multifaceted. A case in point: the new Agri-Barn that stands between the main high school building and the newly-enlarged school garden. The hybrid greenhouse/shed/barn was designed by the Construction Tech class using computer drafting technology and stands at the framed stage.

The 12’ x 20’ Agri-Barn links hands-on building and technology skills with another class—Gardening—and a vision for an expanding agriculture program at the school. “Of course, we have struggled in the last year due to COVID,” says Mike, referring to mandated “on-line only” instruction periods,” but nevertheless we are very excited to put some of those good skills to use, and our students are excited to help out with some of our major on-campus projects that tie different aspects of what we do together.” 

Each year, students and faculty have come together to grow an on-campus garden as part of MANS’ agricultural program. With a formal Gardening class now a regular academic option, a place to store gardening tools and to start seedling vegetables became crucial. The answer was to design a building that could accommodate a greenhouse section, tool storage, and also livestock which Mike sees as part of the future of MANS’ agricultural program.

The construction class students were enthusiastic about being part of the campus expansion. As an added bonus, they learned how to mill their own lumber for the project, bringing the cost of the building way down.

“We’ve gone out and received donations of reclaimed trees, and we brought them in, cut them up using a chainsaw Alaska mill and we stacked them up,” says Mike. “Given current lumber prices, we have about $5,000 worth of wood that we’ve been able to accumulate this year—enough to support our woodworking and construction projects for the next three or four years.”

Additional funds from the Ptarmigan Foundation allowed staff to purchase all the materials necessary to frame the structure.  Time on campus being short due to COVID, construction was paused at the frame stage, and volunteers from SAGE (Seniors in Action for God with Excellence), an Alberta Conference volunteer ministry, painted the exterior in August to protect it from the elements.

With help from students of the second semester Construction Technology class, the Agri-Barn should be complete by the end of the school year. Just talking about it brings an infectious smile to Mike’s face. He is especially thrilled that a growing number of female students have expressed interest in learning construction. Young women form half of the filled-to-capacity second semester class. Mike sees this as a sign of a more diverse, equitable future in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The Agri-Barn exemplifies the type of project Mike hopes to see more of in the school’s future. This student-designed addition to the campus will help buttress the MANS agricultural program while building important skills and supports for the students, and an expanded vision of what they can accomplish.