Some people sip eggnog; others watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
For Great Bend High School technology students, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without working on a project they fondly refer to as the candy house.
Jake Hofflinger, GBHS technology teacher, said this is the sixth year for the holiday tradition that is much, much more than just a house. This year, students built a replica of the entire Barton County College campus.
The project begins each year when the students generate a list of possible project topics and vote for their favorite. This year, the college narrowly beat the Great Bend Housing Authority (high rise).
“They really look forward to it,” he said, noting that this is the third project that some of his students have worked on. “They watch as freshmen, but then they really get after it (as upper classmen).”
He noted that his three advanced classes use skills taught in the curriculum like developing architectural scales, reading blueprints, creating site plans and building foam-board models to construct the buildings.
“A grant (provided by the USD 428 Education Foundation) allows them to hone their skills to create a fun project,” Hofflinger said.
He said he put his students into groups to work on each section of the college. This year, it wasn’t the number of buildings involved that made the task so difficult; rather, it was the topography of hill.
Students compose a list of materials – mostly candy – and a timeline followed by choosing a scale and generating a plan view of the area.
“There were more buildings in the plan, but they were smaller with fewer details,” he said. “It was the hill that made it so challenging. They built it out of Styrofoam.”
“I went out and took 186 pictures of the college to help them get it right. Even with the photos and topographical maps, it took three days to carve and sand the hill,” Hofflinger said.
The next step was to lay out the buildings, sidewalks, trees, ball fields and parking lots. Students then covered the project with wax paper and began to build using only edible items.
Hofflinger is always impressed with the creativity of his students. This year, he enjoyed seeing them make cars for the parking lots out of Mike and Ike candy as the car bodies and Nerds for wheels.
“Everything is about scale,” he said.
The weather, which forced the closing of school, put a damper on some of the details the students had planned.
“But for the most part, it’s done,” he said, noting it will taste just as good. “Eating it is always the last step.”