By Shannon Carr
Board Support & Communications Specialist
Building a tiny home has been no small feat for the students and staff in six third, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms at John Sinnott Elementary School. After just two and a half months, the group has gone from breaking ground during a community celebration January 13 to bringing the walls and roof together of a 200 square foot tiny home during a three-hour “barn raising” on April 1.
“I get goosebumps every time I think about this,” Rita Maultsby, sixth-grade teacher and lead on the Project Based Learning, said during the ceremony this month.
That morning, students and teachers helped raise the walls and roof and put the finishing touches of the exterior on their tiny home alongside Blach Construction’s contractors, carpenters, and engineers in five different stations.
“I’m happy to see the school district investing in this project,” said Carolyn Bao, whose son Caden Le was a third grader working on the project. “It gives them real-life skills that will make a difference in their life. I told daddy that he’s going to be the right-hand man now.”
Fifth-grader Jacklyn Thi said she enjoyed working on the roof along with her mom, and shared her excitement in using a staple gun.
“I never knew how to use tools before this project,” she said, smiling with pride. Since starting, Thi now knows how to not only handle a staple gun, but also a nail gun, table saw, and other tools thanks to a visit to Blach Construction on March 13.
Once caulking was complete, windows were set, the roof was weatherproofed, and the front porch decking was laid on April 1, Blach crew quite literally brought what was once just a small idea to life. They hoisted the the walls and roof into the air using a Genie high reach telehandler, joining the sections together and forming the home over a once empty foundation.
After anxiously watching the final step from a safe distance, staff and students alongside their families and District employees were able to step into the tiny home, peeking through the windows, looking upon the beams, and settling into the reality of their project.
“It’s exciting to actually see it,” Thi said. “Instead of having it digitally, it’s right in front of you.”
The tiny home kicked off last fall with Maultsby’s class in addition to fifth-grade teachers Kiscelle Calvello, Mary Caraballo, and Amber Loanzon, and third-grade teachers Adam Throm and Jeannie Lam. It was posed to answer the driving question: “How will we, as members of a tiny home company, design, build, and promote a tiny home that will best fulfill our client’s needs?”
In an attempt to respond to the question, students worked together, with job titles ranging from CEO to CFO to HR Director. They created a website, documentary, and floor plans for the house that, once complete, will include a mini museum of PBL projects past, present, and future, as well as a work space for students to draw on their creativity.
Blach returned to Sinnott April 8 for the finishing touches. From there, Maultsby said they will move on to the roof and solar system through Alliance Roofing and Delgado Electric. And when they are done, Color Pros Inc. will work with the students to paint the exterior and interior, and the Maintenance, Operations, and Transportation Department will put in the recycled redwood boards. The final step will be for The Awning Advantage to place awnings on the house, and Our City Forest, along with volunteers, will plant trees and bushes as well as fill the planter boxes with flowers. On Thursday, May 18 (the school’s Open House), a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held, quite literally tying the knot on the project.
"We have learned never to underestimate the power of students. They might be tiny, but they are mighty!” the PBL teachers said. “We are coming to the end of a very unique, challenging, and rewarding experience. We would do it again."