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North Hills Monthly

Students Learn Lifelong Skills While Building Animal Shelters

Jan 30, 2015 04:06PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

In Ryan Scott’s “Architecture, Engineering and Construction” class at Hampton Middle School, eighth-graders get more than a chance to learn design and building skills—they get the opportunity to actually make homes that will be used by satisfied customers—the dogs at Ataboy Kennels.

During the semester-long elective class, students develop a range of abilities as they put together the doghouses. “The students learn about structures, including bridges and towers, and learn about the entire construction process, including building codes and blueprints,” said Scott, a Technology Education instructor. “In addition, they get hands-on experience using computer-aided design (CAD) programs such as Sketch-Up.

“The kids gain design experience as well as technical construction experience, because the final product involves so much thought, skill and patience,” he added. “Students need to know, from start to finish, what building a structure such as a doghouse entails step-by-step.”

The students become apprentices, of sorts. After using computer programs to design their doghouses, they make a list of all of the parts and materials they’ll need, including sizes and lengths, and then work on the actual assembly. “It’s a challenge at times,” Scott laughed. “To have 26 14-year-olds gain confidence and comfort in using power tools all at one time, while promoting safe learning techniques…it can get interesting!”

Scott also emphasizes the importance of attention to detail in students’ work. “The doghouses are not just put together—every single aspect down to the shingles and the trim are carefully thought out,” he explained.

As to the community outreach aspect, Scott believes that by doing these types of projects, it increases students’ awareness as to what’s going on outside of their worlds, as well as brings a sense of pride in what they can accomplish. “Kids today need the real-world connection when working on a project—not just the hands-on aspect,” he explained.

“They are so excited to come to class every day, and they are proud to know that their work is going somewhere that it will be used to make a difference,” he added. “As a teacher, I see students who have a hard time focusing in a regular classroom setting, but here, they become leaders in the classroom. It’s pretty incredible, to be honest.”

Scott started offering the class about five years ago, and his students have produced about 60 shelters for animals during this time. “In the beginning, we donated the doghouses to the Humane Society for their officers to place on properties where they couldn’t legally remove an animal left outside in the harsh elements,” he explained. Due to a change in staff at the shelter recently, however, Scott was left to find a new benefactor for the animal havens.

Hampton Middle School colleague, Donna Halter, eagerly stepped in and suggested Ataboy Kennels in Gibsonia. “Donna is a huge animal advocate and worked very hard to make the connection with the kennel,” said Scott.

“Donna does so much for all of the animal groups she volunteers with, and I was so excited when she came to me to see if we could use the shelters,” said Ataboy Kennel owner, Denise Wylie, who is already using the doghouses for rescues that are brought into her kennel, as well as for visiting dogs. “Our dogs love to be outside and use their runs, and to be able to add a shelter to the runs so that they can be completely comfortable is really a big deal.”

The feral cats on the property also use the houses, which the staff stuff with straw to provide warmth. “This is such a nice thing for the kids to do,” Wylie said. “The donation of the houses really helps us all out. I can’t thank Donna, Ryan, the school district, and all of the kids enough. And the animals thank them, too! They are doing so much more than they realize.”