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Colorado students engage in deconstructive use of time

Kathryn Dailey
Loveland Reporter-Herald
**FOR USE IN WEEKEND EDITIONS OF APRIL 25-26**In this photograph taken on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, students from the Polaris Expedition Learning School remove nails from a piece of lumber at the site of a house demolition in Fort Collins, Colo. The students are, from left, 14-year-old Michael McCoy, 15-year-old Jeremy McElhaney and 17-year-old Eli Stokley. Volunteers from the National Center for Craftmanship's DeConstruct Training Program helped to recycle the various building materials from the sturcture. (AP Photo/Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, Steve Stoner)
AP | Loveland Reporter-Herald

FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Sometimes to build knowledge you have to tear some things down. And that’s just what the students in the National Center for Craftsmanship’s DeConstruct Training Program did.

On a recent Tuesday, about 18 volunteers met in north Fort Collins to continue the process of hand dismantling an old ranch house that was built in the late 1800s, said Robb Sommerfeld, a teacher at Berthoud High School and the assistant director at the Center.

“We offer students an experiential learning environment,” Sommerfeld said.



The home is owned by the City of Fort Collins, which plans to turn the property into open space.

The program works to teach students construction skills and the importance of sustainable building.



In fact, it has garnered so much attention it will be featured on a future episode of the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green series “Renovation Nation.”

Crews came to film the work the students were doing, which included taking down the roof, removing nails from wood that could be reused and dismantling the house from top to bottom.

The DeConstruct program included students from all over Northern Colorado. The day the filming took place there were several students from the Polaris Expeditionary Learning School in Fort Collins.



Eighth-grader Colin Holmes had been on the site the day before with several of his classmates to help carry away shingles from the roof, which will be ground up and turned into mulch.

He also used a denailing gun, and the 14-year-old said he learned how to use different kinds of leverage to manually remove nails from wood.

“We learned a lot of handy tricks on how to debuild a house,” he said, adding he will likely use those skills in the future for everyday tasks like assembling furniture or fixing things around the house.

He also plans to use the skills he’s learned to build a tree fort and be safe while doing it, he said.

Sam Bonner, a freshman at Polaris, was also on the site both days.

The 15-year-old lives on a ranch and said the skills she was learning would help in her day-to-day life.

“We’re constantly building and rebuilding things,” she said.

Bonner also learned about the safety precautions to take in construction areas and how to identify which materials are salvageable, she said.

In doing DeConstruct, crews and volunteers are able to salvage, recycle or reuse 75 percent of materials from the buildings they take down, said Nick Benson, a green-building consultant working on the project.

Shingles are turned to mulch, wood and bricks are bundled and sold, the plumbing and electrical systems are recycled.

“That’s a big part of this job,” Benson said.

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On the Net:

National Center for Craftsmanship: http://www.nccraftsmanship.org/

Discovery Channel’s “Renovation Nation”: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/renovation-nation/


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