Building Skills, And a House

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009

This is the house that Victor built.

And Raul heated.

And Jose illuminated.

In a lesson plan that transcends textbooks, students at the Arlington Career Center have spent the past seven months building a small residential structure made entirely of recycled and sustainable materials.

Eventually, the scale-model house will go on display at parks, fairs and other public sites to serve as a lesson on environmentally friendly building. For now, as it sits in a school garage growing more complete by the day, it's an example of what can happen when students combine strengths.

"It showed the students we're all in this together," said Jerry Caputo, principal of the Career Center, a program of the Arlington County public school system. He said that on some nights, he has had to force students to stop working and go home.

"I see the students energized by this, I see the teachers energized by this, I see the community energized by this," he said. "That wouldn't be happening if they were all building their own birdhouses."

Instead, no single student or class can take credit for the project.

The carpentry students are putting up walls and hand-cutting rafters. The electricity students are installing solar panels. And the HVAC students are handling the heating and air-conditioning system.

Then there are the photography students who are documenting the work, the TV crew that is putting it into context and the engineering students who are monitoring the building's weight distribution to ensure it makes it out of the garage.

Hunter Slade, a commercial art student, designed the logo that will hang on a banner.

Hunter, a 17-year-old junior at Yorktown High School, has taken classes at the Career Center for two years. He said he initially came up with two designs for the logo. One was of a leaf, shaped to resemble a house. The other, the winning design, shows the hints of a roof and wall within a green circle.

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