Learning Without Walls
No Boundaries Teaches Students Lifelong Skills
Lilly and Beans scramble up the catwalk along the wall, while Charles and Khloe lounge near the couch in the sun, licking their paws. Faith and Dylan play with toys in the corner. The new meet and greet room at the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa is the perfect place to meet your new best friend.
This newly remodeled room at the Humane Society is the accumulation of months of hard work and resources gathered by eight No Boundaries high school students from Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire and Okoboji.
“We learned things you won’t find in a classroom situation,” said Jazmyn Hallow. “From electricity to plumbing, I know I will benefit from the hands-on factor you won’t normally find in a school setting.”
Originally a sterile storage room with rows of white cabinets, the space has been transformed with blue walls, new windows and doors, and a drop-down ceiling. There is new floor trim and a sink, as well as a brand-new suspended heater in the southwest corner.
Transforming a Space
The group of No Boundaries students began researching for the Humane Society project in September 2021 and were excited to add the finishing touches this May.
“We spent a lot of time researching and creating ideas for the space. We really wanted to transform the space into a living room home idea, allowing families to meet animals in a more comfortable setting,” said Sierra Christians. “We did everything from deciding colors to raising money for the project.”
The students created a spreadsheet of all the materials and supplies they would need to gather: from drywall, two doors, a window, and ceiling materials. The goal was to transform a bare, dark room with pipes into a welcoming, comfortable setting.
“We took quite a bit of time at the beginning researching what items we would need,” said Cormick Currans.
With the help of contractor Jay Chapman, the students gained valuable information throughout the process, from learning which materials to purchase to how to install a window.
Before Christmas, the No Boundaries “Meet and Group” group hosted a coin drive at the Okoboji High School that raised $400. They also received a $10,000 gift from an anonymous donor and have recently applied for a $3,000 grant from the Okoboji Youth in Philanthropy organization to help offset the cost of materials.
“Applying for the grant was a huge learning piece, as they learned what it all entails and means. Beforehand, I don’t think the students fully understood the requirements and time it would take to complete,” Okoboji No Boundaries Facilitator Erin Frerichs.
GT-RA No Boundaries Facilitator Marc Benedict also helped the students manage tools and add floor trim, while Christians’ father taught Sierra and her fellow students how to add a drop ceiling, as well as the skills to epoxy. The students used orange strings to help keep the ceiling level as they inserted the pieces together.
“I learned so much working with my dad and the importance of measuring and making sure everything is level,” she said. “One piece isn’t right and the whole ceiling would be messed up.”
The walls went from a white to a blue gray, which was one of Caleb Jones’ favorite changes in the room.
“I learned how a simple change could really transform a space,” he shared. He also learned how working as a collaborative team makes a project much more efficient.
“I’ve helped my dad with different house projects in the past, but here I had to learn how to work with other people and learn it’s okay to ask for help,” Jones added. “Things work a lot easier if you work together.”
The four students from GT-RA created the catwalk for the west wall, taking a general idea and constructing an eight-foot cat toy.
“It took us several days in the shop at school to build it,” Drew Schnell said. “We weren’t sure what it would look like at the beginning, but we’re really happy with how it turned out.”
During the remodeling process and putting up the ceiling, the group gained the assistance of Dulin Contracting. Owner Steve Dulin donated his time to remove the heater, and in the process, he discovered it needed replacement. Humane Society of NW Iowa Board Member Melanie Becker than contacted Plumb Supply for advice, who then donated a new heater for the room.
“We learned so much from the volunteers who helped us,” Christians said. “Especially seeing how so many in our community volunteer time and resources. They inspired me to want to continue to help others as I get older.”
Caleb Postma learned the vital necessity of communicating and helping each other stay on the same page, especially when students come from different schools.
“If we wanted to get the job done, we had to communicate with each other and with our organization,” he said.
These are skills Frerichs said will be valuable for each of the students long after they leave their school districts.
“Whether any of them go into construction down the road, these students learned things that they will take with them well into adulthood. At some point, they will most likely own a home and they’ve now gained skills that allow them to understand and complete their own home projects,” she shared.
Learning without walls is what No Boundaries is all about. Not only did this “Meet and Greet” project at the Humane Society greatly impact these eight students, but it will change the lives of these special animals and their future adoptive families.
The No Boundaries organization is a collaborative project involving high school students from GTRA, Okoboji, and Spencer. All the students work on real-world projects with businesses and organizations within the Iowa Great Lakes area, focusing on 15-18 projects a year.
“The idea is to learn beyond the classroom setting and gain skills you wouldn’t normally experience, but will greatly benefit from in the future,” said No Boundaries Okoboji facilitator Erin Frerichs. “Some of the projects are ongoing year after year, while others have a hard completion date.”
This is the third year No Boundaries has been transforming their communities outside the classroom setting, with approximately 30 students actively involved from the three school districts.
“Depending on the year’s interest, we usually have around 30 students involved and willing to branch out of their comfort zones,” Frerichs added.
Currently, students are working on a variety of diverse projects, including an upcoming “Play Ball,” an inclusive softball game held at the Arnolds Park field. Examples of other projects include the planning, organizing, and executing of a TedX Youth event, website redesign and development, scientific research, and economic research, and many other projects that vary in academic subject.
For more information on future partnership with No Boundaries students, visit noboundaries.education and follow their Facebook page.
Sierra Christians, Jazmyn Hallow, Caleb Jones, Caleb Postma, Drew Schnell, Cormick Currans, Caden McCoy, Jordan Saul, Hailey Ebel
Brad Becker, Kara Rice, Mel Becker, Tyler Samuelson, Marley Tolbert, Brad Wulf, Jay Chapman, Jason Coulter, Chad Frerichs, Marc Benedict, Jay Christians
Dulin Contracting, Plumb Supply, Anonymous, Okoboji School, Brad Becker