It’s not uncommon for students in high school math classes to ask, “Why do we need to learn about angles and triangles?”
In 2005 two Loveland high school math and construction teachers, came up with an idea, and Geometry in Construction was born. The goal of the program is to demonstrate the importance of what they were learning by providing hands-on experiences. There are now close to 500 programs all across the country where high school math students are having their questions answered as they participate in building a house with their own hands.
More than 500 students at Poudre High School in Fort Collins have participated in the GiC program, now in its sixth year. This summer a home they built in the Poudre High School parking lot will be completed and installed at Harmony Cottages, a housing development at the southeast corner of Harmony and Taft Hill Roads.
Harmony Cottages is the largest housing development ever undertaken by Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity and has been under construction since 2016. The Harmony Cottages will eventually house 144 people in 44 duplexes and four ranch style, two-bedroom, single-family units. All the single-family homes have been built by students in the GiC program at Poudre High School.
Kristin Candella, Executive Director and CEO of Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity said, “The Harmony Cottages are designed to have welcoming front porches, and lots of light provided by many windows. The single-family units have two bedrooms and are 1,100 square feet.”
In order to be eligible for a Habitat for Humanity home, families must meet several criteria in three categories including residency, need for housing, and the ability to pay closing costs. Family income must fall between 45 and 85 percent of the median income for the area and family size. The program asks for 250 hours of “sweat equity” from recipients, giving them a hands-on stake in the building of their home. They must also show the ability to make mortgage payments amounting to no more than 28 percent of their monthly income. Recipients are eligible for zero-interest mortgages from the Habitat organization.
Alex Statham-Lardner, Community and Youth Engagement Director for Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity, described the importance of Geometry in Construction. “The program has become vital to the welfare of many students,” she said. “End-of-the-year interviews are revealing. Students say they have learned the value of giving back, and for some, it enhanced their mental health and became the reason that brought them to school every day. Others decide to take internships in the field and may decide to pursue construction management programs on the college level.”
The installation of the final Habitat for Humanity single-family home at Harmony Cottages will not end this innovative program. Local builder Hartford Homes has agreed to partner with GiC by providing five lots for future homes. “This gives us viable space for the next five years,” Statham-Lardner said.
“Bricks and sticks for each project run $100,000,” she explains. During the first year of the program, Poudre High School and students at the school sought funds through grants and donations. Since then local funders have stepped up including Otter Cares, First National Bank, Woodward Governor, NOCO Unify, Rotary Club, the City of Fort Collins and Give Next (a student giving program through the Bohemian Foundation) to make it possible to continue the program.
The need for affordable housing in Fort Collins is growing. Habitat for Humanity is doing its best to help meet that need and at the same time is providing invaluable experience for students at Poudre High School.