Today’s high school shop classes have come a long way from when you were a teen. No longer are you graded on how functional your shelf is or how feathered friends receive your birdhouse. Instead, your big end-of-the-year project is building an entire house: A tiny house, that is.
Students in high schools across the country are gleaning marketable skills and giving back to their communities by building real tiny homes in their shop classes. While the trend is still relatively new—most schools are offering a first iteration of the class, though some are in their second or third year with a program—schools have found that the chance at constructing a tiny home has reinvigorated interest in shop programs. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, the shop class in Dos Pueblos, California, has seen a 68% increase in enrollment since their program started.
Building a tiny home largely uses the same construction skill set as a conventional home but requires less space and funds to do so. That means tiny homes offer a great affordable, on-site option for vocational training. This past year, the Huot Technical Center in New Hampshire partnered with six local high schools to offer students a special year-long tiny house construction class, the Laconia Daily Sun reports. During the class, students could try out different trades including plumbing, electric work, and general contracting. A high school senior in the program told the Laconia Daily Sun that the work he did as part of the project convinced him to pave a career as an electrician. By the time the Daily Sun article came, he had already clocked 400 apprentice hours with a local contractor.
But what do schools do with the completed tiny homes? The tiny house from Huot Technical Center is being sold for $55,000 to recoup costs and fund the program for next year, but other schools choose to donate house to charities, too. In Washington, twenty teams of high school and college students from across the state built tiny houses this year as part of a Career Technical Education competition. Each team received $2,500 for supplies to build an 8-by-12-foot energy-efficient shelter. These shelters will, upon completion, be donated to a homeless-centric charity for use as transitional housing, reports the Olympian.
While tiny house construction offers great value to schools and students, it is a big undertaking to get the program off the ground: The school has to pay for supplies up front—though many receive grants from local organizations—and teachers have to learn how to build tiny homes themselves before teaching. But there are organizations popping up to help schools get past the learning curve. This past year, TRADART, a California non-profit dedicated to craftsmanship training, worked with high school woodshop teachers in Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Dos Pueblos to offer students the opportunity to build a tiny house.
Leave it up to Gen Z to find a way to get over Millennial’s biggest gripe: While we might not be able to afford a down payment on a house, they’ll just build their own.