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Rockwood Summit students build beds for those in need

The Rockwood Summit class known as Geometry in Construction at could also be called “Students in Service 101.”

FENTON, Mo. — Students at one Rockwood School District high school are using their time, talent and math skills in a service project to benefit others. They’re also learning a new trade.

The Rockwood Summit class known as Geometry in Construction at could also be called “Students in Service 101.” The skills students learn help answer the age-old high school math question — will I ever need to know this?

Geometry in Construction does not sound like a math class. A workshop setting smelled of burning wood.

“That would be a ton of sawdust,” said student Brendan Laury. “Right now, we’re building bunk beds for the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization. We’ve been doing this for about a week now and have built almost 30 beds.”

Teacher Gayle Piepho said Geometry in Construction alternates between math days in the classroom and construction days in the shop.

“Students have to figure out what angle to put the miter saw at,” explained Piepho. “So, as they were trying to figure that out, I said, ‘Hey, guess what? There’s a math formula we can use to make it a little bit easier to find this angle.’”

Piepho was asked what students’ reactions are to something like that.

“Really an ‘aha’ moment,” she said. “So, then I go into the formula, and here’s why we’re doing it. Then we see it in action.”

“When we try to figure out the angle at which to cut our wood, we use the geometry we learned about angles,” sophomore Jane Cottle said.

At Arlington United Methodist Church in Maryland Heights, in a storage closet off the gymnasium, Steve McLean gave us a tour.

“These are the slats, right here, that hold the mattresses up," said McLean. "Then these stacks here are the head boards."

McLean showed what the high school geometry students constructed.

“Then, there’s the mattresses in the back, and these are the bed rails,” he said, describing parts of the 30 bunk beds which will benefit his organization – Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

“It was really exciting to see the kids, first of all, in that class learning these skills they can use for the rest of their lives. But the fact that they’re also willing to put in the time to help other kids is very impressive,” McLean said.

“In construction, you’re always trying to keep things straight, square, parallel – all those are geometry terms we use all the time," Rockwood Summit industrial technology instructor Mike Brown said. "So, marrying construction with geometry just made sense. And students do make the connection.”

They're learning but also loving the hands-on approach. And one student said he's not the only one who appreciates the class.

“My parents love it," Brendan said. "They love seeing me working outside with my hands. They love seeing the sheds we’ve been building.”

“It’s been great to know that we’re doing something to help our community in St. Louis,” Jane added.

Rockwood Summit Geometry in Construction classes have been at it for about five years now. They are always looking for a new project to build.

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