Tiny House Project Positively Impacts Student Engagement

Posted on Categories Academic/Technical Skill Integration, Curriculum Planning, Project-based Learning

At a Glance

Construction Technical Program students participate in the “Tiny House Project,” a collaborative project spanning seven technical programs and over 200 students.


Students in the Construction Cluster program at the Brownstown Campus of the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center (CTC) participated in a project-based learning experience entitled, “The Tiny House Project.” The purpose of the project was to reinforce and apply learning that students acquired in the classroom and on the job site. This project introduced students to potential careers in the building trades while teaching them the rules and regulations of building a house which is mobile but still adheres to code regulations.

Construction Cluster students, junior half-day students, spearheaded this project, with their instructor, Mr. James Smith. Mr. Smith’s primary role is to teach students about the various construction trades during this half-year program. Mr. Smith developed a collaborative partnership with the other senior full-day programs at the Brownstown Campus. Programs such as HVAC/R, Plumbing, Electrical Construction, Cabinetmaking and Wood Technology, Architectural CAD/Design, and Painting, Ceramic Tile, and Vinyl all worked on the elements of the Tiny House which applied to their program. Students were involved in the acquisition, construction, and finishing elements of the Tiny House, which took approximately 12 full school months to finish. Over 200 students in these programs during the last two school years had the opportunity to positively impact this project. Tiny House pictures are attached.

The Tiny House completed at Brownstown has a maximum width of 8.5 feet, a maximum height of 14.5 feet, and was constructed on a 26-foot long trailer; the floor plan is attached. These measurements meet PENNDOT’s requirements for towing a recreation vehicle without additional “wide load” accommodations. While the Brownstown location decided to build a 26-foot long Tiny House, the other two campuses in the Lancaster County CTC system opted to build Tiny Houses just 18 feet in length to reduce costs and expedite the process from start to finish. A Tiny House resources spreadsheet is attachment.

The Tiny House was marketed at local events such as the Lancaster BIA Spring Home Show at Spooky Nook Sports Complex, Penn State University for the Fall Career and Technical Education workshops, and at the Clipper Stadium in Lancaster for the Construction Olympics event in May 2017.

Origin / Implementation

Approximately two years ago, Mr. Smith attended a workshop presented by Tumbleweed Tiny Homes; the workshop is designed to teach community members how to build their own Tiny House. Using what he learned from this experience, Mr. Smith began to develop a project to enrich the programs and students at Brownstown. Originating in 2015 and concluding in 2017, the project reached over 200 students.

The project posed several challenges. An early concern was funding. The Lancaster County CTC decided to fund it out of its General Fund and seek reimbursement for expenses incurred upon completion and sale of the house. A second challenge was determining how to most effectively juggle curricula and work on the project. At times, some technical program students were not ready to tackle certain tasks because they hadn’t yet been covered in class; this dilemma had the potential to cause delays in completion. Finally, securing donations and materials at a low cost presented a challenge. After pricing several different vendors, it made sense to purchase most materials from the “big box” stores who could offer discounts for bulk orders.

A major strength of this very collaborative project is that its leader, Mr. Smith, possesses a high level of motivation, effectiveness, and professionalism. Because there were so many adults and students involved in the project, it was essential that one adult be the point of contact, and Mr. Smith served as an effective project leader.

Results / Impact

Throughout the project, students were actively engaged in higher-level academic and occupational tasks. All students, including diverse learners, showed tremendous understanding and knowledge of the building standards. Students used multiple literacy and numeracy strategies to analyze new information in a way that allowed them to draw conclusions and debate their findings. 

As a result of participation in this highly engaging project, students from all programs were able to demonstrate proficiency or mastery on a majority of tasks in their respective program of study. This project provided students with a tangible way to demonstrate to their instructors that they possessed the skills to work independently and meet industry standards.

Of the students who worked on the Tiny House project, ninety-five percent of them achieved Competent or Advanced on the NOCTI examinations, and all earned at least one industry-recognized certification in their respective technical program. In addition, nearly fifty percent of students earned cooperative learning experiences before leaving the Lancaster County CTC and many of those students were offered full-time employment upon graduation.

Due to the immense success of this first Tiny House, a local business has expressed interest in purchasing all of the Tiny Houses that the Lancaster County CTC can produce over the next 5 years. (Other campuses at the Lancaster County CTC are also building Tiny Houses, so there will be two additional houses ready within the next six months.) While the identity of the company cannot yet be released, this organization is interested in touting the Tiny House as an energy-efficient product that aligns with their diverse product line. This partnership has the potential to offer tremendous experiences for future students. Contact Mr. DelPriore for more details about this partnership.

For more information about the Tiny House, please visit http://www.lancasterctc.edu/tinyhouse.


Lancaster County Career and Technology Center
Brownstown Campus
Michael DelPriore, Principal/Director
James Smith, Construction Cluster Instructor

Supporting Files