State College

State High students helping to design Habitat for Humanity house

State College Area High School junior Kira Dolan goes over the plans Tuesday for the Habitat for Humanity house her class is designing in Bellefonte.
State College Area High School junior Kira Dolan goes over the plans Tuesday for the Habitat for Humanity house her class is designing in Bellefonte. psheehan@centredaily.com

The phrase “Easy A” may not be applicable here.

Chip Crawford assigned his architecture students at State College Area High School a small project, something that takes the parameters of their day-to-day classwork and injects an element of unpredictability and real-world stakes.

He asked them to build a house.

“They get to see a project go from more than just the conceptual project that we normally do,” Crawford said.

It’s not a terrible way to earn a few credits — on a high school transcript or the grander karmic scorecard.

Crawford’s 10 students are teaming up with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County to design a new affordable home to be constructed on Reynolds Avenue in Bellefonte.

This allows us to engage volunteers from the very beginning.

Jill Redman

Executive Director Jill Redman said that it was fun to involve the community’s youth so early in the process.

“This allows us to engage volunteers from the very beginning,” Redman said.

Last year, Redman and Habitat board member Jon Nelson visited the class to discuss the organization’s construction guidelines.

At the time their purpose was strictly theoretical, another in a long line of high school assignments designed to raise the height of the wire without losing the safety net.

That project measured the kids’ ability to hit a target located squarely on a piece of paper, but when the opportunity arose to work on one of Habitat’s first new local construction projects in years, Crawford thought it might be time to raise the stakes.

And the students were totally on board. Mostly.

Junior Abbie La Porta approached Crawford with some doubts — specifically those pertaining to the notion that actual human beings would be expected to occupy something they had designed in the bowels of a public high school.

“We haven’t designed a house that’s actually been built before. … We were nervous,” La Porta said.

Crawford assured her that they would be meticulous — and the conceptual ideas left over from last week’s presentation to Nelson and other Habitat representatives seem to bear him out.

I really want to meet the family that’s going to live in this house.

Abbie La Porta

A couple of poster boards located at the front of the classroom absorbed the strain of an information overload. Details presented in the shape of site layouts, mechanical systems data and architectural possibilities.

Nelson was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm for the work.

“Their energy is contagious and their curiosity and ideas are really helping us to think about what we’re thinking about this project,” Nelson said.

The students left Habitat with a few key questions and the answers will be crucial to the next phase of their design work.

A timeline for construction has yet to be determined, but Crawford would like to see his young crew visit the site, if possible.

La Porta’s endgame is even more specific.

“I really want to meet the family that’s going to live in this house,” La Porta said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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