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Swedish House teaches a world of lessons

East High School junior Bailey Beard has spent hours precisely cutting squares of insulation and then sweating as he wedged layers of the insulation in the rafters of a home he helped build on Rockford’s near northeast side.

But the effort was all worth it, “just to know it will touch someone’s life,” Bailey said.

Dr. Bill Gorski, Swedish American Health System CEO, cuts the ribbon for the Swedish Standard House, 1301 Benton St. Also pictured are Linnea Bengtsson of Lidkoping, Sweden (fourth from right)   and East High School teacher Matthew Walling (third from right).

Dr. Bill Gorski, SwedishAmerican CEO, cuts the ribbon for the Swedish Standard House, 1301 Benton St. Also pictured are Linnea Bengtsson of Lidkoping, Sweden (fourth from right) and East High School teacher Matthew Walling (third from right). Photo courtesy of Swedish American Health System.

Today was the ribbon cutting for the Swedish Standard House, a collaborative building project with the SwedishAmerican Health System, the Rockford Public Schools and education partners in Lidkoping, Sweden. The East students who helped build the home at 1301 Benton St. and their teacher, Matthew Walling, were at the event. So was Nick Crocker, a 2011 East graduate who turned the lessons he learned building the house into a career in construction.

Crocker was among the crowd spilling out onto the lawn on a gorgeous, sunny spring day as the ribbon was cut and the speeches were delivered. People then walked through the home and saw the wonders of Swedish construction.

In addition to layer upon layer of insulation — think airtight envelope — all the flooring in the home has radiant heat. Ever the teacher, Mr. Walling challenged me to see the similarities between the new home on Benton and the older Swedish homes in Rockford. The roof line is super-straight, he said, and everything is plumb and square. “It was just built right.”

It’s just the right way to deliver education, too. The 40 students in two construction classes at East worked from a Swedish house plan. For several weeks every year,  they learned Swedish building techniques alongside 48 visiting students from a school in Lidkoping, Sweden. Lidkoping (pronounced lid-shipping) also has academies in its schools, similar to the RPS college and career academies.

The Swedish Standard House is now complete.

The Swedish Standard House is now complete.

Linnea Bengtsson, an international business developer for Lidkoping who works out of Rockford’s City Hall, said it was a turning point in the Swedish students’ education to come to Rockford, work on the home and be ambassadors for their country. Lifelong friendships and relationships were built across the ocean, she said.

RPS Superintendent Ehren Jarrett said the experience was as transformative for Rockford students. “The Swedish Standard House project is a great example of 21st century learning. Students are involved in experiential, authentic, problem-based learning as they learn about other countries and languages.”

Sustainability is a trendy term, but the home on Benton Street is sustainable in the truest sense of the word.  The resources that it has given — economically, educationally and culturally — far outweigh those it will take. Welcome home.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator at the Rockford Public Schools. Contact her at mary.kaull@rps205.com. Like the district on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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