May 1, 2019 — “This house cost 5 trillion bucks,” Lucca wrote about his dream home. “And it has a two-story bedroom, arcade, airport, trampoline park.”
The accompanying picture the third-grader drew depicted a giant airplane resting on top of the house, with a large slide connecting the many rooms of the gigantic home.
“The dream homes, they’re completely unrealistic,” Dolly Greene said with a laugh, but that was the point of the exercise. “Dream big, whatever you want.”
Greene, who has been teaching at Siuslaw Elementary School for over 20 years, beamed as she looked over what her students had come up with. What started as a small art project tied to a literature discussion has evolved into a massive undertaking where her students learn the housing industry — how to build and design a home, the thought process that goes into it and the jobs that are associated with the profession.
“I have 26 rooms and 3 kitchen and 2 living rooms and 2 more theater and 1 helia pad,” Addyson wrote. “4 bedrooms. 5 bathrooms. 3 kitchens: a 4 house 2 librarie the location is in the mountains. The length of the house is 100 feet. I have 200 fire places and a wood floor. And 300 (foot) wide porch and what is in the kitchen is a stove and a microwave 200 of them.”
Some of the houses were in caves, others were underwater. One student had 50 rooms with five garages, and “there are 10 pools in my house and it’s crazy and warm there are 50 fireplace my house.”
The children may have dreamed big, but with the training they received from Greene and local professionals, they also knew what was realistic. When Lucca wrote the listing agreement for the actual model home that he had built, which was recently showcased along with his classmates at the Early Rhody Show at the Florence Events Center, the scale was considerably smaller.
“This house is very small with a warm fireplace,” he wrote. The home had a snow arch, a stream, rhododendrons and a pathway. It had one bedroom, two bathrooms, and a home area of 100 square centimeters.
“It is a snow house in the north pole!” he wrote.
Well, most of the projects were realistic. One home listed at 100 square centimeters had nine bedrooms, nine bathrooms and two garages. But “this house is fun, crazy, warm, cozy loving and happy,” Sapphire wrote.
Greene’s “Tiny Home Project” began with her students reading two books from the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“The books had a lot of information about how the pioneers built their homes,” Greene said. “That got the kids interested in how to build homes. The dirt floor, how they built the fireplaces.”
So, Greene decided to follow up the discussion with a small art project.
“I had them design and make a little pioneer house,” Greene said. The homes were built from the normal art-class accoutrement — Cotton balls, construction paper and craft sticks.
“Then I started thinking I could add math to this,” said Greene. “Why not figure out the square footage of their little house, and then of their land?”
It worked out perfectly, since calculating area is a part of the third-grade curriculum.
“I think that has typically been one area of struggle for third graders: area,” Greene said. “It’s difficult for them to get the construct of it.”
But if the students were figuring out the area of their own homes, the concept sunk in a lot quicker.
“When something means something to a child, they’re going to absorb it better,” Greene said. “They understand it when it’s meaningful.”
It’s at that point they made the “dream house” proposals, as well as the listings for their actual model homes.
“What about science?” Greene asked. “Part of the third-grade curriculum is to study flowers.” So, they began designing and adding flower beds to their model homes while learning about how flowers worked, how they’re pollinated, what they need to grow.
At that point, the students were getting really attached to their tiny homes.
“They really started buying into the idea that, ‘This is my home that I built. I built my home, I’m making a floor plan,’” Greene said. So she decided to build on that enthusiasm and expose her students to the actual industry.
“I believe that the early impressions the children have can affect what they choose as an occupation when they grow up,” Greene said. “I recall a little girl who did a math project about square footage of a model home in third grade. Now she is an architect. A boy who had an interest in geography became a surveyor as an adult. Young artists sometimes become graphic designers or interior designers. The jobs connected with homes are varied and offer a range of possibilities for the students in the future.”
So, she started inviting members of the community in to talk about what kind of jobs are associated with housing, and to answer questions on what was needed to make their tiny homes safe and secure.
She had Mike Bones, owner of Bones Nursery in Florence, come in and describe what was needed to tend their gardens.
Tim Sapp, owner of TR Hunter Realty, came in to answer questions on what was needed to make the tiny homes a reality.
“They asked about plumbing,” Greene said. “They asked things like how water gets to a house, how does a toilet flush, how do you put in real wood floors, so carpentry. How do you make the walls stable? They came up with these, and I thought, ‘Wow, they’re really thinking about more than what you would think.’ They’re coming up with ideas about what they can do.”
And Greene was surprised by how much the students already knew about the business.
“One asked, ‘What HVAC systems do you have?’ I think his dad may work in that area,” she said. “Some of the things that surprised me through their knowledge, probably coming from what their parents do. I was surprised by some of what they knew, and the depth of their questions.”
The discussion became complex. What are building codes? What is the height of a building, and how long does it take to build a house? And of course, money, including how much it costs to rent a home, own a home and build one.
“They were very inquisitive,” Greene said. “I thought it was so good for people coming from the community and talking. It really clicked.”
And she said it’s also just plain fun.
“They’re motivated to see real life applications, and to make models and projects of things they are studying,” Greene said. “I’m really pleased with the results of this. As a teacher, you get really excited about pulling subjects together and making it really meaningful for all the children.”
The Tiny Home Project is still being built, piece by piece. The students are still involved with the gardens portion right now. As for the future, “We’ll see if we come up with anything else. You might be surprised, you never know,” said Greene.
The Tiny Home Project will be on display at the Family Science Night on Thursday, May 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., located at Siuslaw Elementary School, located at 2221 Oak St.