A growing number of high school programs are embracing tiny to give their students big, real world building experience. These programs are giving young adults hands-on experience and helping to close the skills gap in the United States. That was the goal of the Ness City High School construction class. Over the past school year, fourteen students built a remarkable 206 square foot tiny house.
Industrial education teacher, Brent Kerr led the students on this complex project. His goal was to make their math, building and even language arts learning relevant through every phase of the build. Some of the students were initially reluctant to participate, but once they got comfortable with their new hands-on skills, they became really into it and fired up to build more.
The NCHS tiny house was completely constructed by students. They welded the trailer and did all the construction of the house, top to bottom. Unlike most school projects, the students spent countless hours outside of regular school hours, building.
That also meant many late nights for instructor Brent Kerr (BK), but for him, it was completely worth the sacrifice to be able to see his student's skills and confidence blossom so dramatically.
What were the objectives of this project?
BK: Objective was to let the students experience their learning. I can show students how to wire a switch and light in a module situation but it's not the same. The culmination of this project peaked my students drive to make this project come together it they also became very proud of their work, if they didn't feel some one was doing the quality of work that needed to be done they would take it out and redo it. The short of it is to give my students a look at everything that is involved in building a house.
What skills did the students learn during this project?
BK: All construction processes, they also had to plan a budget for the school board. present to the school board. They spoke at several events superintendents councils and the state school board meeting. They learned how to use Auto CAD for drafting the house plans, Welding, Framing, sheeting, decking, siding, roofing, electrical, plumbing, heat and AC, finish carpentry such as trim work setting cabinets building the table and stools, flooring.
What do you think was the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of the build for your students? And for you?
BK: Planning was the hardest part making sure everything was going to fit I believe that was the hardest part for the students they planned and planned and planned. I am very thankful for that we had no major mistakes and everything fit without modification. The biggest challenge for me was keeping calm I was so worried about finishing in time and it came down to the wire we burnt a lot of midnight oil and time on the weekends and spring brake to finish the house.
Was the tiny house built to any code, and was it inspected?
BK: It was built to RV code and will be a certified RV tiny home when a few small corrections are made. Our inspection was done last week and this was preformed by Pacific West Associates.
What’s the future of the NCHS tiny house?
BK: The future is to sell it! the profit will go back into the construction program and we would like to purchase a few new tools as well as a CNC Router. I have suggested we keep it and run it as an air bnb. I think it would be cool to have a hospitality program at our school and run this just like a business. It would also be fun to have the first one we ever built stay in town then perspective buyers could try before they buy!
Would you like to see Ness City become tiny house friendly?
BK: I think that in small towns like Ness City, you have to be forward thinking or our little towns will dry up. I would like to think we would welcome tiny homes in our community but the issue has not been pushed to my knowledge, at this point.
Ness City High School Tiny House
This is a 24’ x 8.5’, 206 square feet tiny home on wheels (330 sq. ft. with lofts). The house features two lofts one large master loft and the other loft is large enough for a full mattress. There is a steam punk style pipe ladder to the smaller of the two lofts and a spiral staircase to the master loft.
The bathroom has a 36" shower and a standard toilet. The kitchen has a tremendous amount of oak cabinets with concrete countertops. There is also a closet set up for a washer and dryer. the living area has a table that folds against the wall as well as 2 stools that collapse for storage.
*Funds go to fund next year's tiny house build and towards a scholarship fund for the students' continuing education pursuits.
Contact Brent Kerr if you are interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Expedition