Tiny houses help with big dreams

With less than two weeks to go, 32 Bainbridge High School students were working hard to complete construction of two tiny houses by June 10 for the Low Income Housing Institute.

Preston Michaels, who teaches Skilled and Technical Sciences, said the students have been learning how to use tools and skills that will help them later in life. “It’s a good challenge for them, and they get to use all kinds of cool tools. It’s similar to the house that they live in, so it’s built in a similar way that their houses are built, and they’re learning to repeat measures and fix their mistakes,” he said.

This one-of-a-kind program was created by state legislators in an effort to construct 50 tiny houses by 400 students for homeless people in Washington state.

This experience is offering critical skills that most students will not learn when they go on to college.

“A lot of these kids who want to be engineers need to know practical applications and time studies to know that it takes time for labor to do things. This might be the only time they are ever taught about what a screwdriver is and what a hammer is,” Michaels said, adding many of his students have gone on to the School of Mines and Cal Poly and never picked up a hammer in their lab settings. “My kids know how to do that and build things.”

Michaels said that a former student who went on to study architecture at Cal Poly came back and thanked him because she was the only student in her class who knew how to work in the woodshop.

Senior Alexander McAbee is using this tiny house experience to familiarize himself with woodworking and construction before starting a yearlong program in October at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock. “I’ve always liked woodworking, and I have a naval background. So, it’s the best of both worlds,” McAbee said.

Another student, sophomore Kate Hansen, was using a nail gun to put up siding as her male counterparts assisted with holding the panels in place. Hanson said she’d never done anything like this before. “I probably won’t go into construction, but this is a little taste of it,” Hansen said.

When BHS alumni at Clark Construction learned about the tiny homes project they volunteered to help the students to use tools, frame walls and install roofing on the 96-square-foot homes and encouraged them to consider careers in the building trades.

Rachele Turnbull, Clark Construction CEO and founder, said the company has been involved in creating low-income and transitional housing projects in the area and has worked with Housing Resources Bainbridge, Suquamish housing, Port Gamble housing and Olympic Capital housing in Port Townsend.

“When we hear something is going on in our neighborhood, we want to be involved. One of our passions is the affordable and transitional homes and whatever we can do to create something different, that will work for everybody, as well as the sustainability portion of it,” Turnbull said.

A group of students discuss installing insulation.

A group of students discuss installing insulation.

Student pointing out where the first nail should be placed to secure siding to the tiny house.

Student pointing out where the first nail should be placed to secure siding to the tiny house.