Nestled just behind Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School, next to the tennis courts, sits a nearly completed cabin.
This 28-by-40-foot cabin will feature two bedrooms, a bathroom, utility room, a modest living room and kitchen spread across 1,120 square feet. The cabin is being built by 12 students in the Construction Technology Class at Wadena-Deer Creek High School.
WDC Engineering and Technology teacher, Mike Shrode is leading this class project that's giving students a hands-on experience of the construction career trade. By learning the basics of carpentry, Shrode hopes students will pick up skills they need to help them at some point later in life.
"This class will help them figure out if they want to pursue a career like that or not," explained Shrode. "The other aspect it teaches them is, eventually, most everyone owns a house. They are going to learn structure technique, take away the fear of using tools, being able to fix and repair things as needed. When they go to buy a home, they're going to be a little more educated on what to look for."
Work on the cabin began Sept. 8, when students began building the cabin's foundation. By Nov. 1, they are two weeks out from making it "weather tight," said Shrode. Students work from 1:13 to 3 p.m. each school day.
Back in 2013-14, Shrode and a group of students embarked on their first building project with a 4-stall garage, located next to the Grounds Building. Shrode said students have been asking to do another building again, and that's how the cabin project took off this fall.
The future owner of the cabin will be able to choose their countertops, flooring and what colors to paint the cabin walls. Kitchen cupboards and trim will be installed by the students, too.
Shrode said the cabin can be installed on a basement, concrete slab or built on poles, providing a lot of flexibility for the future owner. WDC Supt. Lee Westrum said the cabin will be sold to the public in a yet-to-be-determined bidding process.
What appeals to students in this class is being outdoors and using their hands. Shrode said it's also because there's not a lot of what Shrode refers to as "traditional paper and pencil tests." He only gives quizzes on safety in the class. Shrode grades the majority of this class on plain, old "work ethic."
"My job recommendation means everything for these kids, and that's what they are trying to earn. 'Do I want to hire you or not,' " said Shrode.
Students in the class include Brady Adams, Adam Arneson, Jackson Becker, Tanner Dixon, Tyler Fitzsimons, Matt Goeden, Nolan Killian, Jacob Manselle, Joey Schmitz, Blaine Snyder, Dylan Waln and Brandon Wegscheid.
Shrode said teamwork is an important part of the building class. They talk about any problems that arise and if they have a suggestion of how of how to better do something, Shrode gives the students the freedom to do it.
"I try to empower them to come up with better ways and I try to empower them to make mistakes. Then guess what, you have to learn how to fix it. That's an important part of building," said Shrode.
Senior Matt Goeden said he likes the class because he enjoys being outdoors, instead of being in a classroom. "I like the hands-on work," he said.
Last summer, senior Blaine Snyder worked at Slammer Construction, so he brings experience to the classroom. While he doesn't plan to pursue a career in construction, he said he likes being outdoors as well as the hands-on work.
"We have a good bunch of guys to work with too," he added.
Shrode is proud of the students and the job they're doing so far. In fact, he is especially thrilled to see how anxious they are to complete the project.
"We had a two-hour late start (the end of September), and knowing that we wanted to get cabin weather tight by the time it snows, we talked about working on a Saturday or a late start. They came in at 8 in the morning and worked for two hours [before school started]."
Shrode jokes that if the students had a choice, "they would do that project all day long."
WDC prides itself on offering unique learning opportunities for all of our students, said Tyler Church, WDC grades 5-12 principal.
"The cabin project is one such example of giving students the chance to have fun with learning in a hands-on way. We have a large population of students who learn best outside of the traditional classroom, and we are fortunate we can offer them opportunities like the cabin project," he said.