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GBHS students create candy version of Vets Lake
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It’s like a 3-D aerial photo except in this version of the Veteran’s Park complex, everything is completely edible.

"It’s all on them," said Jake Hofflinger, Great Bend High School technologies teacher, said of the enormous project.

Hofflinger explained that several ideas for this year’s "candy house" project were discussed, but his students overwhelmingly voted to tackle the park complete with lake, ball diamonds, tennis courts, bridges, walking trails and countless other details at the park.

"I think they picked it because they all have spent so much time there," he said. In the past, students have built replicas of Brit Spaugh Zoo, the Barton County Courthouse and Central Kansas Medical Center.

This is the fifth year for the project, which is funded by the USD 428 Education Foundation minigrant program. The foundation provides funding for learning opportunities that is unavailable through traditional resources. Minigrants are awarded to teachers to help supplement the district’s curricular goals, objectives and endeavors that have no other source of funding.

If it weren’t for receiving the minigrant, the candy house project would not be possible, Hofflinger said, noting he appreciates the foundation for recognizing the educational benefit the project has for his students.

Prior to building, students made a field trip to the park, recorded measurements and took 180 photos of every imaginable angle. "Every sign, every detail was photographed," he said.

Then they discussed how to turn what they saw into a scale model using nothing but edible items.

"It’s not as simple as going down the candy aisle. It takes a lot of imagination," Hofflinger said, noting that students had to plot everything out, plan what they needed and find the best options available to use as building supplies.

This year, since there was no single, large structure to build, students started with a thick sheet of foam insulation so that the project could have more depth. They carved the contours of the lake, which also had to be hand sanded.

"Getting the right scale is tough," said Jon Brown, one of Hofflinger’s students, noting that planning all the details was also difficult.

Josh Frederick, another student, said he spent four days making piping get that will be used to make the water in the lake. He also laid most of the green coconut grass and built the dog park using pretzels for the fence.

Other details include Almond Joy candy bars that are serving as the banks of the lake, ball diamonds that use cocoa for the infield and marshmallows for the bases, Laffy Taffy stretched to surface the tennis courts, Twizzlers and gray icing to fashion parking lots and a press box supported by candy canes. Playground equipment, flag poles, tanks, cannons and shelter houses use even more types of candy.

The payoff for students, Hofflinger said, is eating their creation. Three minutes after school is dismissed on Wednesday, the park will be a ghost town.