Courtesy photo
Six students from the Nez Perce Reservation traveled to Moab, Utah to learn about sustainable building, and bring that knowledge home. It wasn't all work, the students did get to stop at Arches National Park.

Summer Vacation Means Sustainable Building Research for Lapwai Students


Summer vacation is here for most students, but a group of students from the Nez Perce Reservation have put their vacations on hold to do important research that could someday help their tribe. Six students and two adults from Lapwai, Idaho drove to Moab, Utah to begin a two-week project into sustainable building research.

The University of Colorado Boulder received a National Science Foundation grant to introduce high school students to sustainable buildings and the importance of saving energy through energy auditing homes. In previous years, students from Fort Peck, Montana and Rosebud, South Dakota traveled to Boulder, Colorado to explore straw bale construction, sustainable buildings, and home energy auditing.  The students constructed a temporary straw bale structure and did energy audits in Boulder and then traveled back to their home reservations to do energy audits there.

Six students from the Nez Perce Reservation traveled to Moab, Utah to learn about sustainable building, and bring that knowledge home. (Courtesy photo)

The students from the Nez Perce Reservation had a unique experience because they were able to build a permanent straw bale structure that will serve as barbeque area at a local Moab Campground. This permanent structure was built entirely by the students and will be there for generations to admire. The students learned about the different types of natural clay components to use and the importance of the composition of the three main components of the mixture:  fiber, aggregate and clay binder. They also learned how to do an energy audit of single family homes in Moab that were constructed of straw bales, and then they traveled back to Idaho where they continued their research by auditing wood constructed tribal housing. They used the information they gathered to complete an energy audit of all residences to share with the homeowners and tribal housing authority. The students analyzed these audits to research the energy savings of homes and how different building materials can affect how much energy is used throughout the year. At the conclusion of the program, the students had to present their research in a poster presentation.

But it wasn’t all work. The group took a Colorado River rafting trip. They toured Arches National Park and spent many evenings at the Mill Creek waterfall to swim and jump off rocks into the cool mountain water. When back in Idaho, they enjoyed a six-hour jet boat trip into Hells Canyon.

Participating students included Britnee Lussoro, Celeste Polk, Iris Domebo, Keanon Wheeler, Koyama Young, and Styels Peters who were chosen for their leadership, personality, academics, math and science knowledge by school staff. They received a stipend, a college and high school science credit and a great experience to put on their resume. When asked if the experience was worth it, they all said they would definitely do it again.

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