Healdsburg High Students build Tumbleweed Epu - Tiny House Blog

Healdsburg High Students build Tumbleweed Epu

advanced construction students and tiny house

Last Tuesday I had the privilege of visiting the local Healdsburg High School. Ray Holley had invited me down to see a Tumbleweed Epu being built by sixteen high school students.

A few years ago the industrial arts program at the high school was being shut down because of lack of funds. A group of business people including Ray Holley decided to step forward and not let this happen as these skills are really needed by the young people and allow them to get jobs after graduating. These business people raised enough money to continue the program and called the organziation CASA (Construction and Sustainability Academy).

The class building the Epu is the Advanced construction class of sixteen students. Their instructor Glen Schaeziein has an interesting challenge as he only has the students for five hours a week which is divided into three one hour sessions and one two hour session. They have made great progress as the construction has only been going on since early October. The plan is to have the house completed by this Spring.


Jay Shafer donated the Tumbleweed Epu plans and the class is modifying them a bit to take on the look of local structures. The class involves bringing in professional people like electricians, plumbers, and even a chef to help in the design of the kitchen. The business people advise the students and then the students go on and do the actual work.

CASA sign and plans

I will stop by a few more times before the house is complete and give you updates on the progress.

This home will be fully self contained, much like an RV with water tanks, etc. and will be set up to be plugged into the grid. They are looking at Solar, but do not have the funds to set it up with this house.

The house will be in the big local parade in May and will then go on to the Home and Garden show at the Sonoma County fairgrounds where the house will be sold and the funds from the home will be used for next year’s class who will build another tiny house. The goal is to build a new home every year. This way each home will be funded ahead of time. This original house is has been funded by donations from local businesses and the community.

interior framing

It is so exciting to see this happening in our local community and I would love to see this take off in every high school across the country. The students are really proud of their work and excited about all the new things they are learning in the process. Please share this story with your local high school and see if you can get something started in your area too.

You can learn more about CASA on their Facebook page. Thank you Ray for sharing this exciting program with me.

tiny house loft


working on the house

front storage area

students working on house

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Dovierabe - January 22, 2013 Reply

Awesome! These kids will have jobs straight out of school that can easily pay their way through college. It’s also great to see so many people caring about their practical education as well.

Valerie - January 22, 2013 Reply

Splendid! Love the ingenuity, community involvemnet and teamwork. Education at it’s best. Bravo, well done! Look forward to the updates!

Kristine B - January 22, 2013 Reply

This is really a great idea. I’m the class of 76 and I use what I learned in those Vo-aig classes to this day. They now call them “industrial arts”, you learn how to design and plan a project and what it take to do the jobs needed to finish a project.

Sadly our schools have pushed students away from the industrial arts. My high school pushed students into computers and auto shop. Sadly they don’t have the basics to build anything in wood or metal. SO many skills have been lost it’s not funny.

Grant T - January 22, 2013 Reply

This program is outstanding on many levels. I wish that I might have had these skills and the notion that I could live in a self-made tiny house as I entered college. This is likely to be life changing for some of these students. College students are also especially well poised for small house living. Kudos to the students, teachers, organizers, and sponsors.

MJ - January 23, 2013 Reply

What a great project – thanks to Jay at Tumbleweed for donating the plans – and huge respect for Ray Holley and his business peers, as well as local experts for helping make this a reality! I’ll be looking forward to the progress reports.

alice h - January 23, 2013 Reply

Excellent idea but no girls in the program? Used to drive me crazy in high school back in the dark ages that girls weren’t allowed to take shop and boys weren’t allowed to take home ec. I guess social expectations can be just as prohibitive as official rules. Perhaps some girls can be coaxed out “to” the woodwork, so to speak.

    Lynne - January 26, 2013 Reply

    Maybe no girls were interested at this time. We had that problem with a ‘diversity’ program here – they just couldn’t get girls to take the shop classes!

Gabriel - January 23, 2013 Reply

Definitely a life-changer for many. A house, after all, is man’s greatest investment and building your own is a great and low-cost advance in your life. I watched a program about education in Finland. The system has no parallel in other countries. Besides nurturing creative thinking and programs for catching-up with learning-material, the Finns chose one profession, such as plumbing, electricity, mechanics and even building a house!
A similar model in other countries may assist low-income people to make for themselves what they cannot buy with their money!

    Kath - January 26, 2013 Reply

    It’s interesting to do the research and ferret out when having a home became what we now refer to as an “investment”. There are a small handful of actual necessities we NEED in life…shelter (a home), food, clothing, and equally as important.. COMMUNITY! I wouldn’t doubt it AT ALL if it was the “investment” bankers that peddled the idea to the people of this country that having a home translated into an “investment”. In truth IT WAS AND CONTINUES TO BE AN INVESTMENT FOR THEM. It is rare indeed for anyone to actually OWN A HOME! The bank OWNS the home you’re supposedly “buying”….the loan of course is NEVER INTENDED for you to pay off. They make more money off that DEBT ASSET on their books if you don’t! And they provide “incentives” to keep you from doing so. The wonderful thing about rethinking what it means to have a home and ACTUALLY OWN IT is part of the appeal of the tiny house movement. It has the potential of allowing us to decide whether we want to “OWE OUR SOUL TO THE COMPANY STORE” or not! With that said..I think this program is a good beginning. Frankly, we have a great deal to rethink at this juncture…and one of those things is how to create jobs OURSELVES and to ensure those jobs include NEEDED skills that can’t be outsourced by multinational corporations with the complicit approval of “our” government.

      Gabriel - January 26, 2013 Reply

      An “investment” such as investing in your own life and family, as opposed to “wasting”. Not the financial baloney which has led the world to a financial halt.
      When you buy a house you cannot afford, you waste your money on paying interests.
      Buying/building your own house without these loans is having more money to go on with your plans and family.
      And, thanks for pointing this out. Next time I will use a more appropriate word to avoid ambiguity.

        Kathleen - January 29, 2013 Reply

        Appreciated both your posts Gabriel. My reply to your first post in regard to a home as an “investment” was because I’m aware “that” prevailing idea was peddled by the mortgage lenders (BANKS)in conjunction with the housing industry. A home ceased to be embraced as “home and hearth”..a place to send down roots to raise your family, a place to make long-lasting friendships with your neighbors…to lend-a-hand and watch out for one another, to “invest” ourselves and our family in our communities..and much more. For decades and decades buying a home/owning a home has translated primarily into an economic “investment”…and in fact you were seen as foolish if you DIDN’T “invest” in this “economic opportunity” by taking out a mortgage….usually a larger one than was affordable and saddling yourself and your family with a huge debt that would rarely if ever get paid off. When the “housing market” crashed in 2008 this whole-house-of-cards became much more exposed and thankfully we’ve been given this opportunity to rethink and evaluate many of our long held beliefs. I consider the economic depression as a blessing in disguise. We’ve needed it for a long, long time…much longer than most of us have been aware. I’m so thankful for the emerging tiny-house movement and all the potential it holds for so many of us. “Home and hearth”…shelter…is one of our most basic needs.

Ray Holley - January 24, 2013 Reply

Alice — it’s true that we have no girls in the CASA 2 class. We do have two girls in our beginning class and we work hard every year to recruit girls. Unfortunately, it takes time to change a culture, but we’re working on it. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Kath - January 26, 2013 Reply

    Mr. Holley, it is 2013!…And although I appreciate your “sentiment” in saying “it takes some time to change a culture”…as a 60 year old woman all I can do is a laugh when I hear such things! If women waited until men were secure enough to “allow” them to participate fully in all aspects of life we would still be prevented from any number of activities including voting! Frankly, there is absolutely NO REASON AT ALL why young women/girls SHOULDN’T be in this program…nor is there ANY REASON why they shouldn’t be AS ENCOURAGED to be in this program as young men/boys. There are a number of women, both young and older who have or ARE designing and building tiny homes. From the description of this program (of which I whole-heartedly believe is a positive step in the right direction for young people)…it sounds as though their actual hands-on class time is quite limited and I would guess they do quite of bit of “observing” because of the time constraints. When the logistics of an hour class time is actually “lived out”…by the time you got your tools out it would leave very little time to actually “get your hands dirty”! With that said…I applaud you for not only introducing the idea, but the tenacity and hard work it takes to push to make it happen. It is no small thing. You’re making a difference. Thank you.

Dockbob - January 25, 2013 Reply

Really practical and needed but I hope they are taught such things as credit, contracts, permits, and codes.

Garth - January 25, 2013 Reply

I will be put in the local parade too?? That sounds like an outstanding way to promote the tiny-house movement! I hope it will be on display after the parade for people to see the inside and ask questions.

Carolyn B - January 25, 2013 Reply

This makes me want to go back to high school. I’d have loved this as a practical education & knowledge. This CASA program is doing right by its students and its community.

Susan - January 26, 2013 Reply

The most inspiring thing I’ve heard of in a long time. The community should be proud of their achievements. It will no doubt change the lives of these young people.

Maestra730 - January 26, 2013 Reply

I have been a public school teacher for almost twenty years and am always so glad to see stuff like this. Bravo for those kids and their teachers, and kudos to the business people and community leaders who helped the program continue.

Elsa - January 26, 2013 Reply

Best idea I’ve seen in a long time! Like you, I would love to see it take off in a big way! Kudos to the people who took the initiative to get it started!

Kate OHara - January 26, 2013 Reply

No girls??? Time for a ‘women build’ in Habitat for Humanity parlance, at this high school. Very sad to see.

    Jeff - March 7, 2014 Reply

    All the girls have to do is say,”I want in”
    Nobody is trying to keep them out.

Judy - January 26, 2013 Reply

I don’t really see the need to recruit a gender that knows the program is available yet chooses to not participate.Yes even in 2013,(generally)most males are not interested in quilting classes and most females are not interested in building houses. This may change in time but Mr Holley should not be made to feel bad about it!

    Kathleen - January 29, 2013 Reply

    Judy, not one of us posting in response to the obvious absence of young women in this WONDERFUL program were “blaming” anyone. Is it possible that you’re unaware that there IS a need to encourage girls/young women to develop the necessary skills offered in a program such as this? And contrary to your assumption…many boys/young men do enjoy skills traditionally relegated to women! They are incredibly talented knitters, quilters, chefs etc. Young women NEED TO LEARN SKILLS IN THE TRADES. Why? Because those skills are NEEDED skills, and if a young women can follow a recipe she can learn to do almost anything! Those skills traditionally pay a living wage. More women live in poverty than men and we need to move toward having more equitable opportunities. EVEN IN 2013 MOST WOMEN WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD to buy A HOME ON THEIR OWN… EVEN A TINY HOME..some are hard-pressed to even afford to rent a home on our own. I’m sixty years old…and not one of my women friends would own a home had they not married and/or divorced. That’s still the reality of women in 2013.

Living with less - Whimsy & Tea | Handwoven Tea Towels - October 3, 2013 Reply

[…] (CASA) at Healdsburg High School. This past May we attended the Open House for the completed Tumbleweed Tiny House built by the CASA […]

Living with less | Whimsy & Tea | Handwoven Tea Towels - May 14, 2017 Reply

[…] (CASA) at Healdsburg High School. This past May we attended the Open House for the completed Tumbleweed Tiny House built by the CASA […]

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