Ten Year Olds Design Awesome Tiny Houses!

exploring tiny house concepts in clay This morning I had the opportunity to present a tiny house workshop to an incredible bunch of fifth graders at The Island Schoolon Bainbridge Island. I was lucky enough to have Doug Clawson as my fifth grade teacher, so I have very fond memories of fifth grade myself. I was pleased to be invited to Mike and Betsy’s classroom.

I got to Island School a little early so I could tape out the footprint of the 8x18 tiny house on wheels I lived in last year. I enjoyed the chance to visit with the teachers before the kids arrived. (It turns out it’s a tiny world after all: Betsy’s daughter interned with me for three years when we did volunteer coordination together!) While the kids settled in and completed their morning activity, I got to work memorizing their names.

how would you like to zipline into a tiny house?!

We began our Tiny House Workshop by mind-mapping the relationship between our houses and our use of resources. I shared photos of tiny houses from around the country for inspiration and gave them a “walk-through” of the tiny house I’d taped out on the classroom floor. After a quick discussion of our basic human needs, we did an activity to explore our needs and wants. One of the kids felt like she could let their TV go pretty easily while another said his X-box is his most prized possession. One girl pondered whether or not she could give up her books since she has a library card. Others recognized how important their instruments, pets, or art supplies are to them. We marveled at how different our lists were from our neighbors’ and I pointed out that one of the greatest things about designing a small space is tailoring it to an individual’s unique needs and wants.

modeling a tiny house with cardstock and clay

Keeping all this in mind, we began our design studio. I gave the kids a simple program and we got out the modeling clay, paper, colored pencils, and scissors. Half an hour later the kids shared their design concepts with their classmates. One of the girls sketched out a floor plan, elevations, and sections to think about the house in three dimensions. One boy designed an underground hobbit house. A small design team modeled a tiny house with paper walls and colorful clay furniture. We saw creative ideas ranging from a tree house to a zip line and from multifunctional furniture to a special room for Raffi. I was blown away by how well-thought-out their ideas were, especially considering the short timeframe!

We wrapped up the morning by going around the circle to share something we’d learned. It was very inspiring! I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to teach and learn from these kids. Thank you Island School Fifth Graders!