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Students at John Sinnott Elementary School in Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) traded their backpacks and books for hard hats and shovels on Friday, as they literally broke ground on the next phase of their tiny home Project Based Learning during a community celebration.
“To come this far and for this day to be the beginning of our reality means a lot,” Rita Maultsby, lead teacher of the project, said to event attendees, including students, staff, parents, community supporters, and dignitaries Milpitas Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli, Board Vice President Danny Lau, Board Member Robert Jung, and Superintendent Cheryl Jordan.
Maultsby explained that last fall six third through sixth grade classes kicked off the project, 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 - to lay the groundwork of building a 200 square foot tiny home on site. 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. They are scheduled to complete the floor plan in early spring. Students will track the progress with pictures and a blog on their website (still in development), as they make the transition from student to assistant carpenters in the building of the tiny home.
“It’s so gratifying to be able to see that the work of our students and their imaginations can really impact a community,” Superintendent Jordan said during the event. “The tiny home project is something that’s going to be here for many, many years to come so when people look at this finished project, they’re going to look at that as a symbol of what every single one of you can do. Not just that you can imagine it, but that you can work together and make it happen. And that’s really what it takes to make a difference in any community.”
Fifth grader Savan Bollu shared her first-hand experience about the project.
“Project Based Learning is named after problem solving and, yes, a lot of problems came up in this. But when we worked together, it made a big difference,” she said.
Fifth grader Kendra Hedwig agreed.
“When we were making our floor plans, all of us had a lot of different ideas of how it should be. But we were all able to agree on one idea, which helped us a lot because it saved a lot of space on our floor plan,” she said.
Once complete, the tiny home will be used as an extension of the classroom in a variety of ways, such as a reading and writing nook, math center, PBL work area, gardening center, and cross-grade level collaborations.
Rita shared her gratitude for the generosity of companies that have allowed the project to be such a success.
“We haven’t paid a cent,” she said. Blach Construction is donating the lumber and the windows, Duran and Venable is doing the gravel and grading, United Site Services is providing the fencing, and Sinnott parent and carpenter Ron Campbell will work with students building the benches, planter boxes, and bird houses which will enhance the tiny house by making it more welcoming. The project is also supported by Joe Flatley, lead architect and MUSD’s Director of Facilities and Modernization; the MUSD Maintenance, Operations, and Transportation department; tiny home clients; and parents.
For more information about the project, contact Rita Maultsby at email@example.com.