We’re proud to showcase the Core Construction Program at Transitions Learning Center in Natrona County School District #1 as the Wyoming CTE Spotlight Program of the Quarter.
The program, designed and taught by construction teacher Rob Hill and math teacher Dwight Burrows, offers authentic applied learning of mathematical concepts embedded in an architecture and construction CTE pathway. Students in this program learn to apply math in a practical way and many find that the application of math is the key to success in a subject at which they’ve previously struggled.
An Integrated Program
Rob described it in his own words as an integrated program "… that focuses on authentic high level building projects in our community… it’s highly team based and targets job placement in the region. Students receive CTE credit, math credits, college credits, and OSHA certifications during the regular and summer school schedule."
|The Math and Construction program in action|
The program was started five years ago with three students, and with the vision, tenacity and hard work of Rob and Dwight, along with the support of many others in the community, the number of students enrolling in the program has rapidly increased each year. Over a dozen business, educational and community partners have come together to support the program through donations, grants, technical support, student employment, and more.
"I spent countless hours building relationships in our community and region," says Rob. "We began doing real-world jobs like decks, concrete and framing garages. As the program grew we began to raise the bar on the magnitude of our jobs and began a cooperative project with our local community college," he added.
"From the beginning, we decided that we would do projects each year that had a special focus on the community and people in need. The first year we helped build fences around single mothers’ homes so that their children would not be able to wander into streets. The second year we helped elderly families and disabled neighbors after an early season blizzard hit Casper. Each successive year we have tried to help the community while still doing industry jobs."
It’s this cooperative partnership, the giving back to the community that really makes this program special.
Another example of the incredible program innovation is the seamless integration of other units of study. "We are fully integrated with math courses but we also facilitate integrated units with our science program," said Rob. "We have partnered with the science program, the Casper College Fire Science, Casper Fire Department, and Casper College Construction Tech to do an energy test on one of our cabins. Students were responsible for designing a way to check for energy loss. We did a pre-test experimental design of the exterior temperatures at various points and then used industrial heaters to heat the building to 120 degrees. At specific times, the groups tested the exterior to find heat loss. The results from the science groups were presented to the construction groups, which, in turn, allowed the construction teams to fix the mistakes. This is but one example of how we try to model real world examples that are integrated."
Rob and Dwight have gone above and beyond to serve their students in a way that is not only supportive, but impactful. Their program was developed for at-risk students who face significant challenges in their lives, and who tend to struggle in traditional academic settings.
These students have been able to find a sense of ownership and identity in this program. Rob describes the culture that he and Dwight have created: "Every other Friday, our program barbeques for the entire student body as a way to give back. For many of our students it is the best meal of the week. We have been very successful with this group by becoming a team."
Not only do students find a place to belong in this program, they find true success academically, which for some is a first. Last year, all thirteen of the students enrolled in the summer program worked full eight-hour days on projects. "Not only did they meet their schedule but we had zero absences and a 100% completion rate," says Rob." During the regular year we outperform the state average graduation rate with an integrated average of 84%. And these are the students deemed most highly at-risk. We did this through teamwork and a deep affirmation that CTE changes lives."
Rob and Dwight were nominated for the national 2015 CTE Excellence in Action Award, sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education. We hope all will join us in recognizing and applauding them for their dedication to their students and community, and for the impact they have made and will continue to make in Wyoming education.