IDEA Public Charter School

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1027 45th St. NE, Washington, DC 20019 Phone: (202) 399-4750
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Teacher Feature: Ian Milne

Every summer during college, Ian Milne built houses, working with and learning from a professional builder. “We built houses from the ground up,” Milne recalled. “This guy taught me everything—I learned a ton and it was the most fun job I ever had.” Although he went on to teach social studies, Milne has always enjoyed building and gardening on his own and was thrilled by the opportunity to teach Construction I and II at IDEA, as the newest member of our Academy of Construction and Design faculty.

His vision for IDEA’s ACAD students is both expansive and practical. “Right now we’re building compost bins to recycle kitchen waste to make great soil,” he explained. “In the alley behind the school we have compost bins right next to the kitchen, across from the garden beds. ACAD classes will be growing food in the garden beds and we’ll have fertilizer in the compost bins.” Students are learning how to frame two stories of walls to create the bins as well as building a base for a cistern to harvest rain water, which will irrigate the garden beds.

“There’s no better way to get buy-in from students than teaching them how to use tools,” Milne said. “For me, my confidence was boosted big time when I learned to build—when I made something and could look at it.” His 10th grade students used hand tools to build compost bins. “They know how to do it now, so they could build compost bins at their house for their families, or build them for others and sell them.”

Construction classes follow the curriculum of NCCER, which provides credentialing standards for the construction industry. To earn NCCER certifications—and pass their classes—students must master performance tasks and take written tests, but Milne has freedom to teach the skills required by the tests using any kind of projects that he feels will be useful to IDEA. “Eventually we want to build a bigger garden and an orchard,” he said. “Maybe build a shed and picnic tables.” Students also have the opportunity to build projects they can give away. “We’re going to build bookshelves. What’s cooler than burning your name in a bookshelf and giving it to a teacher?”

When he’s not at school, Milne spends time with his four children and the 11 chickens his family keeps for the eggs. He is an avid gardener and his yard his filled with vegetables and flowers, in beds he constructed himself.