The Inside Story: Construction Trades at Carmel School

We love it when we can build a relationship with our customers! Some folks buy trailers from us to build their tiny homes on or house plans or just follow Dan along as he builds a house on his video series and book.

Most we never hear from again, but some do keep in touch, and we get to go on their tiny house journey with them. I am super excited to share the story of Construction Trades at Carmel School with you.

To know that Tiny Home Builders has a little part to play in the home construction education of future tradesmen makes us immensely proud!

I asked the founders, and instructors Larry Griggs and Sidney Swartzendruber a few questions regarding their program.

How did it come about? 

Sid: “Indiana has Career Pathways to promote high demand jobs in the state.  We have added years 2 & 3 of the program allowing students to take a full 3-year sequence of courses in Construction.  We used to have a vocational building trades program that travelled to a jobsite to build homes.  The housing market crash and low enrollment caused us to close the program for many years.  Larry stepped up and restarted the program here at CHS.  We feel that a 90-minute period of on-site instruction right here at the school is far more productive and logical.” 

What was your goal?

Sid “Grow interest in construction related careers through a sustainable, exciting, trending method of construction”

Larry “I agree with what Sid said and will add that one of my goals was to give the students an authentic experience.  We worked outside when it was hot, raining, sleeting, snowing, raining again, and back to being hot in the spring.  They had to work on scaffolding, move ladders, unload delivery trucks, shovel snow, get dirty, get sweaty, and stand around a salamander to keep warm. The kids were up for the challenge! There were times they wanted to work before school, during their study halls, after school, and on weekends.  It was incredible to witness students taking ownership of their education and the education of their classmates.”   

You also used our 32’ Tiny Living plan for your design. How did that come about?

Sid: “Larry and his students researched designs online, but also had a basic plan to work from until the ideas and creativity began to flow.”  

Larry “We decided it would be best to start with plans vs creating our own to ensure the weight was distributed correctly on the trailer (which happens to be a Tiny Home Builders Trailer).  It was challenging for the students mainly because of all the different opinions from other builders.”  

How long did it take you to complete the house and how many students were involved?

“Each house took one school year.” Class sizes were 25 students max.  

Year 1 (21-22) we had 2 groups. 

Year 2 (22-23) we had 3 groups.

Year 3 (23-24) we have 3 groups.

(If you are doing the math this can mean about 75 students get hands on building instruction every year!)


What were the specific learning objectives? 

"The main objectives were: 

Students will utilize hands-on activities and real-world experiences related to the skills essential for them to be successful in residential and commercial construction. 

Students will be introduced to the history and traditions of construction trades."

Were the kids involved in the planning or just construction?

“Even though the students built the structure from a set of plans, there was a lot of planning that went into the actual build. The students were responsible for creating a Gnat Chart, Material Lists, Order Forms, Safety planning, Material Storage, Budgeting, and how they were going to stay warm during the winter months. We were not able to purchase all the material at once because of lack of storage space.  The students were constantly thinking ahead to make sure we had materials to work with.”

Did the students enjoy the process? 

“They sure did! I’ll let them speak for themselves.” Check out their YouTube Video

Will this be a regular part of your curriculum? 

“Absolutely! This project provided students with an experience that allowed them to decide if construction was something they wanted as a career. 

The students took great pride in their work and tried to do their very best because they knew it would become a home for someone.”   

Looking into the future of the program, are there things you would do differently and what have you learned from the process?

“So many things.  As a teacher, I wish I could have students create space saving devices.  It is a challenge from an experience standpoint. The second house was much easier for me as a teacher because of the knowledge gained from the first build. I was able to see problems beforehand and help guide the students more effectively. I have learned it’s best to take your time and do your research. “

What advice would you give to another school contemplating this type of project?

“Just do it.  You will not regret it.  The students will gain so much from this project and remember it for a lifetime. Find out if there are any restrictions to having a tiny home in the area that you live." 

As an instructor what did you enjoy the most?

"The construction students I have had the opportunity to work with have had a wide range of student achievements.  The students that I have the greatest success with are sometimes not as successful in other courses.  This course gives the students that are not going to be getting a doctorate degree an opportunity to get experience that they can use right after high school or after technical school.  It gives them the confidence to be successful." 

Larry and Sid let us know that they are expanding the department to accommodate building tiny homes and other construction projects indoors.

What a great resource for the students at Carmel High School! Follow their progress on their Instagram page

If your school is interested in developing a tiny house construction program we'd love to help. Just go here to our Schools and Foundations page.  








Published on 9/14/2023. Published in Tiny House Community.

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