By: Emily Sweeney
For most kids, summer is all about relaxing and not having homework. But to Matthew Brown, this summer is about learning, building, and designing before he starts seventh grade at Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
That’s why he participated in White Bear Lake Area High School’s Learn2Build event, one of several daylong programs hosted throughout Minnesota this summer to introduce middle school students to careers in the construction building trades.
Learn2Build is a statewide program designed to increase awareness about careers in the construction building trades among middle school students throughout Minnesota. Construction Careers Foundation funds the program and caters to kids in grades 4-9 by applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to “real-world” construction materials and processes through fun, take-home projects.
“Every Thursday at school we used to have digital design club with eighth-grade teacher Mr. Skogen. He talked to us about Learn2Build,” Matthew said. “That’s how I learned about it.”
Matthew and others were surprised to start their first activity in a classroom filled with bulls eye targets on the walls. Matthew said he was even more surprised to learn that he would build a marshmallow launcher.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Matthew said. “I’m planning on doing it every year if it’s like this.”
Along with other students, Matthew received direction and help from Learn2Build director, Mary DesJarlais.
“It was hard at first because I didn’t understand how to cut PVC pipe, but when Mary showed me it was pretty simple,” Matthew said.
DesJarlais said it’s important to provide kids with the opportunity to work with tools. Through Learn2Build, students learn how to measure, cut, read blueprints, operate machinery and use construction related skills to build things and accomplish projects to be proud of.
“When they have a tangible thing that they can do with their hands, it piques their interest. They’re just so proud of what they’ve done,” DesJarlais said.
She hopes the hands-on activities inspire students to choose classes that match their interests in middle- and high school.
To Matthew, the project reminded him of his Design and Modeling class at Sunrise Park. One day Matthew would like to become an engineer like his aunt and uncle but, he would consider interning at a construction site for hands-on job experience.
“My favorite part about building things is that you get to learn something new,” Matthew said. “It’s also pretty fun to shoot marshmallows.”
To learn more about Learn2Build, visit ConstructionCareers.org/programs.