MANSON-Students at Manson High School have a unique opportunity to put down their pencils and pick up the power tools to get hands-on training in construction while also creating housing opportunities in their community.
Kevin Sanford, a teacher who was also a former general contractor, proposed the idea to create a class that would be tasked with designing and constructing a tiny house. With the help of his fellow teachers and the superintendent, they got to work on how to fund the proposal.
Using dollars left over from last year’s GEAR UP program out of Central Washington University, the high school was able to renovate its vocational tech department and purchase the tools needed to build a tiny house. The course is now an elective that students can choose to take each trimester.
“We just started the program in September, and 99 percent of the students had no clue how to build a house,” Sanford said. The class spent six weeks learning about the industry and construction basics, and developed tiny house models before moving to a larger scale.
The class is a Project Based Learning model, where students use their skills and projects to show their growth rather than the traditional written testing.
“This is something the kids can take to the job site with them,” Sanford said. “They have some experience with framing, plumbing and electrical work and they could get a summer job or go into an apprenticeship program. They could get hired by any local construction company and they would do well with that.”
On the current timeline, the class will build one tiny house that will be available for purchase in the community.
“The goal is to put the tiny home up for auction when it’s completed in May,” Sanford said, adding that he hopes to build two houses a year in the future.
There are 16 students tackling the logistics and construction of the tiny home while looking to help solve issues like affordable housing and a trained workforce.
“We have [class] everday and we usually set our own goals to get done on the tiny house,” said Megan Clausen, a junior at Manson HS. The class has two groups, one that works inside and one working outside on the full structure.
“For the people who work outside, which is what I do, Mr. Sanford sets a goal for us to get done for the day and sometimes if we’re falling behind we come in on the weekend,” said Blake Cochran, a sophomore. “It’s a lot of time during the day but we’ll work on the weekends too.”
The students said weather has been a challenge with the project.
“The weather has been difficult to work with, it’s cold outside and we’ve had days where it’s raining and snowing and slushy, but we’ll work inside on those days,” Clausen said.
As far as helping their community? Clausen said she sees the project as an opportunity for creative housing options for residents.
“There’s a lot of low-income families here, I think this would be a great way if we were to get more tiny houses out there not for families but probably for single working people to own property and a house without having to pay too much,” Clausen said. “We live in a really pretty valley so the prices of houses are much higher here.”