Took classes a few weeks ago that I have yet to reflect on called math for building, structural design and codes/costs/contracts. Though the class wasn't the most exciting, I sure did learn...that I will always need to understand more about structures, load capacity, etc. and that the more I think I know about them, the more I will realize that no one truly knows how a structure will work...even the best of the best cannot predict what a structure will do 100% of the time.
Math for builders: There were some regular ol' public school teachers in the class, which totally allowed me to see the class in a different way. Instead of seeing it only as a tool that I can use, I was also able to see using building to inspire learning. Again and again I return to hands-on education. I am a visual and hands-on kind of learner, and the more I talk with people, the more I realize that that is the way that most people are. Listening to someone go "blah blah blah sine cosine tangent" at you for an hour is way less effective than having a school project where building the roof for a shed becomes a less in trig. All of the sudden BAM! the student that can't care less about trig is suddenly a whiz. She can do it because it is suddenly more relevant than finding the angles of a triangle drawn on a piece of paper. Things I found helpful and math-related: how to build risers for stairs and how to use a framing square (though not included in the class, it is something I think should be included in the math section)
Structural Design: Taking this class at Yestermorrow, you'd think there'd be some section of this course that relates to alternative and natural building. How do you calculate loads for strawbale buildings? What can a tire wall support? Despite that this was not the case, I still learned a lot about how buildings are built, how to figure out how much support is needed, etc. Going over my house as an example...I finally understand why it is not falling down when it seems like that is exactly what it should do given that there are major beams that have been entirely cut through. Yay for old style construction, old timbers, and old timers who overbuilt their structures! Interesting fact: Warren,VT has a higher snow load than Buffalo does.
Codes, Costs and Contracts: This is where I think I often run out of patience. The most critical steps in building are writing up a contract, giving estimates, and winning bids. It wasn't anything new, but the main message was to take time to do it right, but don't obsess over it. A bid is a bid...you'll win some, you'll lose some. Know how much time to spend on an estimate versus a full materials write up. Don't let potential customers take advantage of the work you do and your intellectual property. etc. etc. etc.
All in all, an okay class. Definitely helpful, and I think one which will become increasingly relevant as I leave Yestermorrow...