A vision for maximizing classroom space and creating new learning opportunities has developed into St. Lawrence Secondary School (SLSS) Construction students having their own on-site tiny home.
“I saw the combination of floor space and high ceilings in our shop classroom and knew we needed to utilize it in some way,” says SLSS Construction Teacher Robin Waller. “With the support of administration, some OYAP funding and generous donations from local businesses, the vision has become a reality.”
Waller began the hands-on project of building the 20 x 16, story-and-half tiny home in September 2020 with all his Grade 9 Exploring (Construction) Technologies and Grades 10-12 Construction classes.
Construction students first did paper designs and drafted the building plans prior to the first board being ever being cut.
After completing the floor and wall framing and sheathing, students had the opportunity to do the electrical work to ensure the home had lights. They also had the chance to install a fully functioning washroom with a sink, shower, and toilet, utilizing a closed-loop, jet pump system.
Guillevin International Inc. donated the electrical supplies, Noble and Longevity donated the plumbing materials and BMR (formally RONA) Perkins Home Centre donated funds, offered discounts on building materials, and donated the windows and a door. The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) also supported the project financially.
“Students have already shown interest in expanding and changing the project,” says Waller. “I enjoy sharing their excitement as they step away from their comfort zone to learn new skills. For many, handling construction materials and working aloft is a new experience.”
Grade 10 student Eve Ryan has been an active participant with the project from the beginning, taking a Grade 9 Exploring (Construction) Technologies class in September 2020 and two other construction courses this school year.
Ryan says her favourite parts of the project so far have been framing, making the support system and the electrical wiring. She plans to get her working from heights training in hopes that she can work on the roof of the project as well.
Grade 11 student Ava Bellefeuille has also been invested in the development of the tiny home as her grandparents own the BMR in Cornwall. As the first female to work in the store’s lumber yard, Bellefeuille brings prior knowledge and expertise to the project.
“This project has spiked an interest in carpentry in our school,” says SLSS Principal Josh Harrison. “So much so that our school has applied for and was granted a Construction Specialist High Skills Major program, which will start in September 2022.”
SLSS currently offers two Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs that Grade 11 and 12 students can enroll in – Health and Wellness and Hospitality and Tourism.
Waller’s vision is to utilize this tiny home as his “dynamic classroom.” An ongoing, ever-changing construction lab where students can experiment with the many facets of construction.
With the planning and drafting completed at the students’ desks, the experiential learning goes on in the house as the students develop and demonstrate a variety of construction-related skills. Students work on project design, builds and renovations as “apprentices,” with strict adherence to industry-standard safety, building, electrical and plumbing codes.
“Partition walls will be framed, electrical circuits run, fresh and wastewater piping installed, drywall, flooring, windows and doors installed, finishes and fixtures go in, and the list goes on,” says Waller. “Along the way we problem solve, renovate and relocate, learning transferable skills beneficial to our future homeowners and potential tradespeople.”