CLE ELUM-ROSLYN — At 16, Andrew Hastings, a student in teacher Al Montgomery’s basic wood shop class at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School, is dreaming big about building small.

On a spring before school got out, he and other classmates were busy salvaging materials from a building on campus that was torn down. The building, formerly used for storage, will be replaced by a new building that will house the school’s music program.

As for those salvage materials, they’re part of an innovative building project planned at the high school.

Next fall, students in Montgomery’s advanced wood shop class will tackle construction of a so-called “tiny home.” By definition, a tiny home usually is considered to be 400 square feet or less.

Built on a trailer bed, the planned 8- foot-by-25 foot structure will reflect a movement that has seen increasing numbers of Americans downsizing into smaller living areas and simpler lifestyles.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Armstrong said. “I think a lot of people are tired of scraping and borrowing to try to afford bigger homes. I think people are feeling pushed and pushed and a lot of people are aching for something simple.”

Armstrong, who launched his own construction company in college and teaches part-time while still operating a design company, sees the project as a perfect learning opportunity.

He said he talked with commercial tiny home builders who recommended that he have the trailer bed built for the project rather than trying to build it.

PARTNERS NEEDED

Seed money for the project came in the form of $25,000 from the district’s Career and Technical Education program. To augment the budget, Montgomery hopes to enlist community partners to help with the project.

“We’re hoping electricians and plumbers and others will help us by in-kind donation, working with students,” Montgomery said.

Students participating in the project will learn all elements of project phasing, he said. When building is completed next year, the plan is to sell the tiny home to fund another project. The idea is to make the program self sustaining. Like many of his classmates, Andrew, who will part of the advanced wood shop class next year, is excited. He’s a tiny home enthusiast.

“When I get older I might build my own tiny home,” he said. “I think they’re cool because if you’re a traveler you travel all over the country in one. You’re not stuck in one place all the time.”

One thing he would like in his own tiny home, he said, is a suspension system on the trailer that would allow him to get away from the pavement and further off into nature.

Montgomery said the project has special meaning for students who typically are kinesthetic learners who learn better by doing than by reading a book or listening to a lecture.

“The kids you see here flourish with hands-on learning,” he said, nodding toward the wood shop. “Hands-on learning is where they shine.”

DESIGN PROCESS

But it isn’t just hands-on learners who are part of the project.

This past year, Montgomery challenged students in his CAD design architecture class to help with the tiny home design process.

“My architecture class absolutely loved doing it,” Montgomery said. “I told them to watch videos and come up with some ideas. They came up with some terrific ideas that were going to use in the project.”

The idea for the tiny home experience came partially from a state Tiny Home Homeless Shelter competition and partially from the popularity of tiny homes. Cle Elum-Roslyn did not participate in the competition because of the limitations of the project, Montgomery said.

But Lisa Hull, career and technical education director for the district, said given the popularity of the tiny home movement, adding the tiny home experience to the school’s offering seems to make perfect sense.

It brings job experience into the school, provides students with a skill set employers are looking for and gets students engaged in learning.

“Any smart business person looks for its niche in a growing market and for us we think that is tiny home building and selling,” she said.

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