Poudre High School students are learning all aspects of building storage shelters and being resourceful while helping families affected by last summer’s High Park Fire.
A group of 15 PHS students have committed themselves to the “Seed to Shelter” project, an extra-curricular all volunteer project in which they are building storage shelters to donate to families who are rebuilding their homes in the High Park Fire area. The education-based project is called “Seed to Shelter” because students are learning everything about the construction process, from the forest to the finished structure.
The students have been meeting after school since school began in August as the “PHS Construction Club.” The after-school club is more than building things. Students are learning about sustainable design, architecture and construction techniques. They also visited the burn zone to learn about forest and fire ecology.
“We’re starting from dirt,” said Josh Weissman, PHS technology education teacher. “We’re learning what type of soil is in the Rocky Mountains, learning how a seedling becomes a tree, how the tree becomes a product and how we use that tree.”
Using timber from the burn zone as lumber, the group hopes to build seven shelters by the end of the school year. They are working closely with the NoCo Rebuilding Network, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting families impacted by the fire with local resources.
Students are also committed to building the storage shelters without power tools. “By using manual skills, we hope to teach them so much more. They gain a better understanding of the materials and there’s a greater appreciation for the precision and accuracy needed,” said Weissman.
PHS senior Jae-Jae Ong likes the hands-on approach. “I like using an actual saw instead of using machines,” she said.
Weissman admits that if they used power tools, the group would be able to build three or four sheds in a weekend. “But what would they learn? The depth of what we’re teaching would be lost,” he said.
Through the project, Weissman hopes that students will not only learn about construction techniques and forest ecology, but they will also see how they can make a difference in their own community.
“We want them to look at how they can use their skills and strengths to help our community in need. We’re all connected whether we like it or not,” he said. “It’s a privilege to work with your community, especially the Fort Collins community. It’s exemplary in so many ways.”
PHS sophomore Jessica Conley decided to become a part of the project to help people in her community. “I know people affected by the High Park Fire. I like helping people and working with people. It’s hands-on and a chance to learn a new skill,” said Conley, who has taken a few wood shop classes.
Weissman says the Seed to Shelter project is a successful collaboration between PHS students and community members who are dedicating their time and talent to the project. Peter Haney, owner of Rocky Mountain Workshops, developed the curriculum the students are following. He has also been serving as an instructor throughout the process, as well as a lead fundraiser for the project. Ray Ramos donated the burned trees from his tree farm in Stove Prairie, as well as hours of labor processing the trees for the project. David Bye, a retired lawyer, and John Gascoyne, a retired lawyer and PHS tech-ed substitute, have also been helping the students, volunteering significant time to the project.
The “Seed to Shelter” project is accepting cash and material donations. Cash donations are being used to purchase tools like hammers and saws. Material donations for necessities like windows and flooring will help complete the storage buildings.
To donate cash, please mail a check to:
PHS Construction Club
Poudre High School
201 Impala Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80521
To donate materials, contact Peter Haney at 970-482-1366 or at email@example.com.