Students get hands-on with geometry

Glenbrook South is in its second year of hosting its Geometry in Construction course. Held every day, the course gets students working both inside the classroom with geometry and outside the classroom with construction. About 30 students are enrolled this year.

What are the students most excited about? Building the walls that will soon become a family’s home!

Students who were enrolled in last year’s class, as well as students in this year’s class, will travel to Waukegan in November in install their first set of walls for a Habitat for Humanity home.

Co-teachers Dan Leipert and Brian Schmalzer could not be happier with the culture of their indoor/outdoor classroom.

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Leipert, who also teaches honors-level architecture and civil engineering courses, has been working with contractors since high school and remodeling homes for 14 years.

“I love working side-by-side with the students,” Leipert said. “We form good relationships based on trust, empowerment and respect for one another as we build. A construction class relies on great teamwork, the ability to delegate tasks and leading others… It’s also really rewarding to see how the math starts to resonate with the students as we start to build, adding authenticity and meaning to every lesson.”

Schmalzer, a math teacher, spends one week each summer taking students on Habitat for Humanity service trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

“I like to see that ‘lightbulb moment’ when the students realize a geometric concept is not just something they do on a sheet of paper but something they use with skill on a job site,” Schmalzer said. “We want students to feel confident in their math and construction abilities, and understand the connectedness of the two fields.”

And the fun doesn’t stop at building walls for homes. Other projects planned for the future include building new picnic tables and playhouses.

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“If anyone is interested in a shed, doghouse, chicken coop… you name it – we are up for building it,” Leipert said. 

Stephanie Wolfson, a junior, took the course last year and is now serving as a lab assistant. She’s currently planning to build a dog house equipped with a rooftop sun deck. 

“It’s so great to be able to use what we learn in math class in real life,” Wolfson said. “I’m really into construction projects so, I enjoy the fact that we can get outside on nice days and I can learn math without being stuck at a desk.”

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Brayden Grant is enrolled in the course as a freshman. He said he signed up for the class because he enjoys both math and construction. 

“I like building things,” he said. “It’s also interesting to learn geometric principals through real-life applications in construction, and it’s for a great cause – we’re giving back to the community in a big way.”

Previously struggling with math, sophomore Madison Dekorsi said she enrolled in the course without any construction experience.

“I just wanted to get better with math, and these are some of the best math grades I have ever gotten,” she said. “The teachers have been really helpful as we learn both math and construction skills. If we don’t understand something, they will take us to the side and help us until we get the hang of it. It’s like a school family.”

Madison noted there’s a great feeling of camaraderie in the course.

“I talk to people more than ever before,” she said. “There’s a lot of teamwork.”

The teachers said they hope to continue to grow this program so that even more students can feel confident in their math and construction skills.

“Our ultimate goal is to empower the students,” Leipert said. “We’ve already seen their confidence go way up in classroom and in the hallways.”

Get involved:
Contact Dan Leipert at dleipert@glenbrook225.org or Brian Schmalzer at bschmalzer@glenbrook225.org to learn more. 

Video:
Click here to view a Geometry in Construction video from GBS TV.