School News: Real-World Learning With Tiny Homes

Fall 2019

Seventh grader Cooper Padilla shares a look at the interior layout of a tiny home.
Teacher Hilary Alvardo looks on as seventh grade students Josie Morgan and Irulan Cockrum paint sections of their tiny home model.‚Äč Photo courtesy of Leigh Ann Clifton


The tiny house movement—one with architectural and social elements, with small homes averaging 300–400 square feet—has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Mount Madonna School (CA) seventh graders are joining the action. With the guidance of math teacher Hilary Alvarado, they created very tiny 3-D model houses to learn the real-world application of creative math and engineering during the 2018–2019 school year.

Students drew their blueprints to scale using architectural symbols, with half an inch equaling 1 foot. They calculated the square footage of their homes as well as determined the type, amount, and cost of materials needed. “Between the blueprint and the model house, there was a lot of precision required,” says student Paris Mahoney. “If you were off on a measurement by even part of an inch, for example, the staircase might not fit.”

Once the homes were completed, students took a “gallery walk” through their classroom and shared feedback on sustainability, engineering, and overall aesthetic design. In April, the students displayed their blueprints and tiny houses at the school’s annual Summit for the Planet celebration.

“The finished houses definitely exceed my expectations,” Alvarado says.
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