Melissa Ram, left, and Jessica Antolin paint the shed that a Grade 11/12 workplace math class has been working on since the end of November. The Surrey Christian class budgeted, measured and built the shed, which was expected to be finished Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Melissa Ram, left, and Jessica Antolin paint the shed that a Grade 11/12 workplace math class has been working on since the end of November. The Surrey Christian class budgeted, measured and built the shed, which was expected to be finished Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)


Surrey students build shed as part of math class project

Grade 11/12 class learning about budgeting, financing and construction

A handful of grade 11 and 12 students at Surrey Christian School have been using the math they’ve been learning for the past few months to build a shed.

The Grade 11/12 workplace math class started the project on Nov. 24, said teacher Sean Engbers. The class only has four students: Jessica Antolin in Grade 12, Kasonde Mulenga in Grade 12, Melissa Ram in Grade 11 and Isabella Skrypnyk in Grade 11.


From left: Grade 12 student Jessica Antolin, Grade 11 student Melissa Ram, Grade 11 student Isabella Skrypnyk and Grade 12 student Kasonde Mulenga have been working on this shed since November. The Grade 11/12 workplace math class at Surrey Christian has been planning, budgeting and building the shed. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Engbers said the class was “kind of up in the air” after one of the teachers left, and he and fellow teacher Mike Jonker decided to take it on together.

“We saw the curriculum and it’s very much designed for us to teach workplace skills, so measuring, financing,” Engbers explained, “we created a budget for this, actually got a mortgage broker to work with the kids so they understood if they were to take a mortgage on it and you think it’s $2,200, but in 25 years, you end up paying $3,500 for it. They had to figure out all the trigonometry and do all the skills to make it happen.”

He said the class first started by building mini sheds to scale made out of Popsicle sticks before going out to pitch the project to a few people.

However, Engbers said Surrey Christian decided they wanted to pay for it. He said the school is paying full price for the shed, and the cost of any materials donated is going to help pay for repairs at school in Honduras they’ve partnered with for the past 25 years.

“The hurricanes wreaked havoc on their roof and so some of the buildings aren’t usable right now until we can get the funds there,” said Engbers, referring to hurricanes in the fall of 2020.

In order to get the donations, Engbers said the students worked with English teachers and students, “who taught them how to write pitches for getting donations.”

The class of four students ended up getting donations from Vancouver Ready Mix (concrete for the pad), Country Lumber (wood needed to build), West Central Building Supplies (siding, door hardware, roofing materials and other miscellaneous building materials), Surrey New and Used (two metal exterior doors) and Sherwin-Williams (paint).

Engbers said with the school paying for the shed, and items either donated or “heavily discounted,” the class has raised about $2,000 for the school in Honduras.

The students, along with Engbers and Jonker, finished the shed Thursday (Jan. 21) at the school’s Fleetwood campus.

Isabella said she “didn’t think there would be this many steps” in building a shed.

“But it’s cool to see what it’s like almost finished. I didn’t know it was going to look this good,” she said, adding her favourite part was building the walls and putting in the studs.

For Kasonde said the work was “pretty long, tiring at times,” but he was “pretty excited because it just meant no homework.”

“It’s fun, but it’s tiring. Sometimes you’ll just be super flustered. It’s worth it at the end of the day though.”

But he said the biggest skill he’s taking away from this project is “just the overall layout of how to build, like working on a construction site and learning all the tools and learning how to read a measuring tape.”

Jonker said learning math from building a shed translates “a lot better” for the students.

“When you’re learning math, a lot of times, it’s really easy to look at a math problem and … they give you all the dimensions and tell you what you need to do, but to actually look at the shed and say, ‘How much paint do we have to buy?’ A can of paint here says it covers 350-sq.-ft. Do we need one can? Do we need two cans? Do we need three cans?

“They translate a lot better when they actually see it happening, rather than reading out of a workbook where they give you all the numbers and you just punch numbers into a calculator.”

While Engbers said these are skills the students will use for the rest of their lives.

“We didn’t make any restrictions, like saying you can’t use the internet, you can’t use a calculator. If you want to use a phone, go ahead, use your phone,” he said. “Because once they get out of this class, everybody uses their phone, everybody uses the internet to outsource.

“We’re trying to give them also the skills of being able to fix stuff on their own, without us holding their hand.”

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