The project began when Heidi Swajanen, landowner of the Eben Ice Caves trailhead, approached Superior Central industrial technology teacher Jake Cogger with the idea earlier in the winter. While the Swajanen family typically acquire about a dozen outhouses to accommodate the tourism the caves attract, supply issues this winter left them with four.
Now with both outhouses delivered after a few months of in-class work, Cogger says he’s seen clear growth in his students over the course of the project.
“One of the things that I do try to teach my classes, they call them soft skills or you call them professional skills, and every week we focus on something. And week one, for example, safety. Week two is hustle, and those are all things that I think every employer would look for,” Cogger said. “And they go through and actually evaluate themselves and they evaluate their peers, and I’ve seen a huge change where, you know typically at the beginning of the semester unless I was directly telling a student to do something, they’d kind of stand around and wait for it to get done. But now it’s, you know the door opens up, they roll in and they all sort of know what they’re doing. They all get the tools out and they get working.”
The Swajanen family pays for the delivery and maintenance of the outhouses themselves every year, and likewise covered the cost of the supplies for the outhouse project the students have worked on this semester. Heidi Swajanen is also a substitute teacher at Superior Central and says she got a look into the project’s development as it was going along.
“I sub here quite regularly, so it was always fun to come in here and watch the kids working on them,” Swajanen said. “A couple times I even subbed for Mr. Cogger, so I’m the teacher in the class, and seeing the kids working on them was great. And they had fun, they thought it was pretty cool. And then they can go out and see them, too when they go out to the caves.”
While both outhouses are delivered, Cogger says they still require some finishing touches that the class hopes to have wrapped up within a few weeks. For the Cogger and the students, making a contribution to a place that makes their community stand is something they can look back on and enjoy for years to come.
“Literally the school’s right down the road here. Heidi and Tim, who live right here, their daughter’s in my class, so they’re part of the local community,” Cogger said. “And, you know, they can roll in here and one day, maybe with their kids or their family, be like ‘Oh hey I put that piece of wood up’ or ‘you see that mistake? I made that mistake,’ or whatever else. So I think that’s pretty cool. Not just to build something for them to bring home, but I guess build something to hopefully better the larger community.”