Otter Lake Elementary Hosts Learn2Build Event for 75 Students

Learn2Build, a hands-on, in-school program designed to introduce middle school students to careers in Minnesota’s construction industry, hosted a Learn2Build program on June 10 in White Bear Lake School Independent District 624 – engaging seventy 5th-grade students at White Bear Lake’s Otter Elementary School.

Through support from the Construction Careers Foundation, a Twin Cities-nonprofit that is dedicated to introducing young people to careers in construction, Learn2Build offers curriculum materials and supplemental resources to middle school teachers for implementation in their classrooms.

Construction Careers Foundation Program Director Lindsay Tallman and Learn2Build Program Manager Mary DesJarlais partnered with Otter Elementary School to pilot a program that gives younger students an opportunity to be creative and gain hands-on experience using tools relied upon by real construction workers.

Through Learn2Build, middle school students engage in exciting activities focused on the construction building trades industry. Students work individually and in teams to learn about construction concepts such as energy, the environment and structural design.

“We were thrilled to bring this opportunity to our youngest group of students yet,” Tallman said. “Some might argue it’s too young for students to be talking about careers, but we’re opening students’ eyes to different jobs that their guardians or family members might have.”

Tallman added that Learn2Build offers an opportunity for students to release their energy, use fine motor skills, and work in teams to create something they can be proud of.

“During our Otter Elementary School Learn2Build event, students built birdhouses,” Tallman said. “This project involved using math skills such as measuring and practicing with real tools such as hammers. Sometimes these projects tested the patience of some  students, while at the same time, reinforced practicing a skill several times and following directions.”

Expansion of Learn2Build Partners in the Greater Metro Area

Tallman and DeJarlais look forward to continuing to build partnerships with elementary and middle schools throughout Minnesota.

“We have a number of ways to engage students through Learn2Build such as with in-person events hosted by a school or with take-home skills kits,” DesJarlais said. “Our take-home kits were especially successful during the pandemic. More than 2,000 kits were dispersed to students when we couldn’t gather in person.”

DeJarlais added that the kits — initially created to bring students an interesting activity and joy during the pandemic — continue to be shared with afterschool programs to get students excited about building.

“The practical applications of learning how to use a tool, follow a blueprint, or learning how to measure something, are not just great skills for a career in the construction industry,” DesJarlais said. “These are skills that these students can use throughout their entire lives. These skills are applicable to fixing things around the house, being creative and making or building something. By empowering students to use tools, we are encouraging them to be imaginative and inventive.”  

Importance of Construction Curriculum 

The Learn2Build program is a steppingstone to exploring Minnesota’s construction industry.

“We want to pique students’ interest in construction early on,” Tallman said. “We believe that there is a career for everyone in construction and that the growing field of construction has so much to offer in the coming years from new types of infrastructure to environmental design, to engineering the world we live in.” 

Future Learn2Build Events

Want to learn more about Learn2Build? Visit our website.

Find Learn2Build events this summer at:

July 20 North/Tartan High School Career Expo Event

North High School @ 2416 11th Ave East, North St. Paul


July 25-28, Flipside Summer Camp

Central High School @ 275 Lexington Pkwy North, St. Paul


August 8-10 YWCA Minneapolis Summer Camp

Dunwoody College @ 818 Dunwoody Blvd, Minneapolis