Learning from the inside outPublished on September 11, 2012

  • Kitchen by Deslauriers Custom Cabinets; Flooring and backsplash from Westboro Flooring and Decor

  • Ian Charlebois

  • Photo provided

  • Photo provided

  • Photo provided 

High-school students learn the practical side of homebuilding outside the classroom…

There are some school subjects that need to move beyond the classroom. Homebuilding is one of them. This trade subject is offered at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School in Orleans and relies on relationships with local builders to help put the curriculum in place. But when the fit with the usual developer wasn’t right, teacher Ron Toews found his students without a project and was facing the possibility of trying to teach a hands-on subject within the confines of the classroom.

When past student and local realtor Ian Charlebois heard about the struggles Ron was having, he stepped in to help. Ian is a community-minded entrepreneur with a background in development and, as the son of one of the owners of Metric Homes, he was aware of the complexities of the building industry and the need for trained workers.

The time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s program needs fit in with a renovation project Ian was personally undertaking. He had just bought a 50-year-old house on Smyth Road that was in need of renovation. After careful consideration, Ian offered his project up to Ron for his students to work on.

Thirteen students obtained both interior and exterior knowledge and learned about building from a renovation perspective by working alongside skilled trades. Outside, they helped build a retaining wall, gutted and repaired a garage, and worked on soffits, siding, windows and landscaping. Inside, they learned how to read floor plans and understand the complicated process of creating new from old by opening up walls on the main floor to create an open-concept plan that updated the kitchen and living space.

Ian looks back on the experience in a positive light: “It was a great experience for me and a learning process for everyone involved. The circumstances were so unique that every day was different, and dealing with the students was a pleasure.”

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