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Heather Bitker designed her dream house during a class with Ross Millar, an instructor of industrial arts at the Voyageurs Expeditionary School. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Voyageurs Expeditionary High School: Building a dream house

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At 18 years old, Giiwedin Butcher has designed his dream house.

On a piece of graph paper Butcher drew a floor plan with scribbled measurements near each line. His dream house includes an outdoor patio, a large garage, and a living room big enough to fit a poker table.

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Butcher is one of many students at Voyageurs Expeditionary High School learning to transform their dream house ideas into actual scale models through a six-week seminar.

Voyageurs, a 9-12 public charter school, has included six seminars into its curriculum this year. Each seminar, called a "hex," has an overall theme which requires students to use selected class subjects towards accomplishing the theme's mission.

"What's unique is that we, as teachers, are coming together and making different subjects interconnected," said math teacher Paul Johnson.

The students voted on their first seminar theme, "My Dream House," in which they learn how to design their dream house using world language, math, and industrial arts skills.

"The idea is that everybody lives somewhere," said world language teacher Ann Skoe, who brought the idea of a seminar to the school. "It's a unique way to incorporate teacher-guided, student-led project learning."

Students in Spanish, German, and math spend two days a week learning the language and additional material relevant to designing a house. On Fridays, industrial arts teacher Ross Millar teaches the students to draw a house to scale and eventually, build a scale model.

"In order to design a house, students must first learn concepts such as scale, volume, and geometry," said Johnson. "They learn this in their other classes."

Skoe teaches her students on the architecture of different countries and homes that incorporate environmentally-friendly technology.

"I try to use what I know in the classroom," said Skoe, who had lived in Germany for almost 11 years. Skoe had studied Spanish in college and had also taught at the Concordia Language Villages for 22 years.

"Everyone cares about where they live," said Skoe. "Learning becomes something they don't realize they're doing."

The students have until the end of October to finish building their scale model house. The goal is to create a professional model, with details such as door hinges, closets, and windows.

A new seminar and a new theme will begin in late October.

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