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Brick by brick: Mason City construction students get hands-on lesson

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Can they build it? Yes they can.

Mason City High School students put their bricklaying skills to the test by helping out at the fieldhouse construction site on Wednesday.

Construction instructor Rich Patras has been teaching his class, comprised of upperclassmen, the basics of brick laying over the course of the year. Students start with learning how to get mortar on a board, which holds the mortar for builders, then move toward practicing getting the mortar on a block, which is the brick itself. Patras said his students have been practicing with reusable mortar and blocks to get the technique down.

MCHS Bricklaying

Senior Trey Linderman in yellow hard hat puts the new brick in at the fieldhouse addition.

"There's a method to it. We spent time getting to learn how to mix mortar and how to get it the right consistency. Then we learn how to lay it on a line and then how to hold the block," said Patras.

12 students from his class took part in the learning experience of laying brick alongside veteran bricklayers at the site. 

MCHS Bricklaying 2

Construction instructor Rich Patras' class had the opportunity to apply what they have learned to the Mason City High School fieldhouse construction site.

"(They are learning) what it's like to work with real mortar," said Patras. "This is the real stuff and they have somebody that has 30 years experience laying brick with them. That's an opportunity they'll never forget."

The students were quick to work by mixing the mortar, applying it, then placing the block in place. Each of the students kept an eye on each other to ensure they were doing it correctly. In one area of the wall they were building, piping was in the way, leading students to use their trowels to break a section of the block to make it fit. 

Junior Kylie Trappe said she was excited to be at the site and doing hands-on work.

"(The hands-on experience) shows us where we are going to use this in the future and you get to apply (what you've learn)," said Trappe.

Senior Ean Miller, who is planning to go into the industrial trades after high school, said it was good experience for him and using actual materials.

"It's cool that we can come and lay a whole wall and we'll get to see that wall for years to come," said Miller.

MCHS Bricklaying 3

Senior Ean Miller applies mortar to a section of the new wall.

Patras explained that all of the students in his class will be certified as a pre-apprentice in the field of masonry. With the certification, students can automatically go to an apprenticeship program according to Patras.

"These kids work hard at this, and there are kids that I know I could take right now and send them out (into the working field). In a few days, they would be doing well," said Patras. "They could have a job and that's the beauty of this."

Abby covers education and entertainment for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email her at


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