‘Fixer Upper’ helps students build drywall, lifelong skills


Alexander Miles

Juniors Baley Metclaf, Kima Ukpong and Gabriel Meyers assemble a wooden frame that will become the setup for a wall in their “Fixer Upper” class.

Alexander Miles, Ian Overman and David Liu, Contributors

There’s nothing like this at Kinkaid,” said Mr. Mark Sell, director of technical theatre. 

Mr. Sell teaches “Fixer Upper,” a class focused on DIY home-building skills, including installing drywall and setting sinks and toilets, and using tools such as drills, hammers and impact drivers

The class provides a hands-on learning experience rather than a lecture-based learning format, with students being directly involved in the home-building projects. Students start building wooden frames, then installing drywall and electrical wiring.

“It’s a ‘doing’ class,” Mr. Sell said. “That’s really the goal of this — to get them used to actually doing things. And that’s something very unique in this class in that it takes things you see on television, things that you see at home, and things that you see when you drive and gives you an inside view into that process.”

Full of juniors, the class was one of the earliest to fill up. 

“It just seemed to me like the class would help me gain very valuable skills that I would use later in my life,” said junior Alex Jinnette. 

Besides using their skills to make repairs in their own houses, Mr. Sell and some of his students have roots in helping others through community service. 

“What got me interested was actually a community service project called SBP that I was leading,” said junior Kima Ukpong. “Mr. Sell was one of the volunteer teachers who helped out the students with the projects and I realized that I kind of enjoyed building and renovating houses.”

For two years, Mr. Sell acted as the construction manager for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. He used this previous experience with leading volunteers to offer his students an interactive opportunity to learn the same skills that allowed him to rebuild more than 20 houses.

For future years, Mr. Sell said he plans to expand his curriculum to include automotive maintenance. 

“I think we could expand into automotive kinds of areas. Like how to change oil, how to change your battery, how to change a tire, that kind of stuff. Those are things that I think would be useful in addition,” he said.

Ukpong said she plans to use the knowledge she gained from the class.

“A professional is probably better than a high school student,” she said. “But I definitely think that I’m going to be using the skills that I learned from this class.”