Twenty homes and 10 years later, Community Building continues to provide Cochrane students skills and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Last night, the 27 Grade 10 students and their instructors welcomed family and friends to check out the fruit of their labour this school year.

Building Futures is a full-year academic program for grade 10 students offered in partnership with homebuilders Kingsmith Builders in Cochrane and McKee Homes in Airdrie.

In addition to their learning in subjects like math, science, social studies and English, students work together to construct a house. Through this program, they engage in hands-on learning guided by tradespeople associated with residential home building.

teachers with CraigCraig Wiens, centre, with program teachers Lindsay Rous and Dave Pedersen.

Kingsmith Builders owner and president, Craig Wiens has championed the program from day one.

"The only reason we do it is we've just seen kids' lives changed for the better, kids that are really uncertain about where they're at right now and where they're headed," says Wiens. "And this program's done a lot to help kids figure it out. The first thing it gives them dignity and self-respect that they actually have a skill set and they can learn things.

"You don't have to be smart in the classroom to be smart in the world and a lot of these kids apply themselves here and figure out that they're actually quite gifted in other ways besides sitting in a desk and then they apply that in their lives. We have so many stories of kids that have gone into the trades and are successful tradespeople."

He says the relationship built are different than those in a regular classroom environment.

"This group ends up being more like a youth group and so their relationships go a lot deeper, not quite as superficial, so they grow as people both, I would say, socially with one another and then also in a more practical application-type way when you're thinking about profession, goals, careers and where they want to go with their lives."

Safety of the students remains the top priority on the jobsite.

"That's always the thing you're most worried about, but outside of that, we just keep doing the program because the positives far outweigh the negatives or the risks."

"We've developed a pretty consistent method with the kids using power tools or air nailers. We want them to use them because that's a part of growing up and learning how to be responsible and independent, so we do training with the students on every piece of equipment."

piperPiper Halliday told those gathered for the event what the program means to the students before they entered the homes.

For students like Piper Halliday, it may not lead to a career in home construction, but the experience has been life changing.

"I was having a hard time with people in grade 9, and it was really such a relief when I had two teachers who really cared about me, and I've made some incredible friendships. That's my favourite part."

She says the skills she learned will come in handy in the future and already her dad is encouraging her to do a few things around their home.

"I want to see where high school takes me and then go from there, but definitely it's going to be really helpful in the future when I have my own house."

Nina Livingstone was looking for something different in grade 10 and found it with Building Futures.

"We really get to know our teachers and classmates, and we do more fun stuff that helps bonding and lots of teamwork with the construction."

She doesn't rule out applying her new skills in her own home or for a future job.

"I liked doing the exteriors and the finishing, but carpentry was really fun to see it all come together. That was really nice."

insideThe homes were decorated with photos and keepsakes on the students.

Two teachers provide core instruction during the course of the school year in a classroom located just behind the build. For both, it's a rewarding experience.

Lindsay Rous previously taught in three Rocky View schools over the years and was attracted to the program by its flexibility.

"We teach them everything. It's a really flexible classroom and the transformative nature of the program, that they actually grow a lot as people throughout the year, work a lot of adults, work with professionals, let them have a solid understanding of who they are as people and where they want to go in the future."

Teacher Dave Pedersen is in his fifth year with the program and says it continues to be an amazing experience.

"No one really understands what it is on the teacher side. They think the kids are just building a house, but then, when you actually start teaching here, you're with the same students all day, and it enables you to do cool things that normal classroom teachers can't because they are locked down by things like the bell schedule, having different classes at different times, and you just don't have the flexibility in the same way as when you have all the students, all day."

All 20 of the homes they have built have been in close proximity to Bow Valley High School (although students come from throughout Cochrane). Next school year, they'll be moving further down the road to build homes in Fireside.

Today, a similar open house is being held in Airdrie.