Real World Impact: A Tiny Homes Project

Real World Impact: A Tiny Homes Project

Thirteen students receive Congressional Recognition for their interdisciplinary coursework projects dedicated to improving the lives of housing-insecure female veterans.

Real World Impact: A Tiny Homes Project

In an innovative collaboration between Marlborough’s Visual Arts Department, Science Department, and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), 13 Marlborough students engaged in a year-long project designing a tiny home village, community space, and collaborative farm on a site in the Antelope Valley to support six housing-insecure female veterans. The students and instructors partnered with ThriveLA and Life Source Oasis, two nonprofit organizations who are improving the lives of female veterans by creating more affordable housing in Los Angeles County. 

Dr. Lindsay Kwock Hu, Founder of Educate Our Community–an organization that empowers teachers to provide students with real-world learning experiences that positions them as leaders in the community–was the conduit in connecting Marlborough students to ThriveLA and Life Source Oasis. In an effort to partner with girls' schools across the city, Dr. Kwock Hu emailed Marlborough discussing the opportunity to support these veterans. When Architecture instructor Kathy Rea received her email, she jumped at the opportunity. “I knew it was exactly what my students would want to do. They have been eager to work on a tiny homes project for years,” Ms. Rea shared. As a school that models interdisciplinary collaboration as a driving force behind lesson planning and curriculum mapping, Ms. Rea immediately connected with Science and Entrepreneurship instructor Catie Mino, who oversees the CEI Evergreens student group, to join forces on this unique initiative. Members of the CEI Evergreens have an interest in and passion for gardening, which aligned perfectly with the desire to create a community garden and farming space on the site of the tiny home village. 

Utilizing the human-centered Design Thinking Process, students in Ms. Rea’s architecture classes considered the needs of these housing-insecure military veterans, defined the problem, organized their ideas, and tested and evaluated various iterations of models and prototypes in order to arrive at what they believed was the best possible solution. Through research and data collection specific to the proposed building site, students reviewed local zoning and building codes, typography, average temperatures, rainfall, and solar paths, and gathered information about constraints pertinent to the project and considerations for designing the property. The project also required the students to consider environmentally-conscious decisions when creating prototypes for the site.

Students were then able to start designing. Informed by their research, they created a site plan model, built three-dimensional prototypes and models for each of the structures, and created larger-scale models of a single tiny home and of a communal space for the site. Once these first iterations were complete, students created their plans in a digital format, designing the floor plan, elevations, and interior spaces, including choosing finishes, fixtures, and furnishings. With an eye toward making the site as eco-conscious as possible, students were tasked with highlighting their suggestion for a sustainable feature of the home. As an extra feature to these homes, students were asked to envision a gift in which they could give to the veterans to make their lives more enjoyable in honor of their service. With each phase of the design process, students honed their skills and developed their concepts. The growth and thoughtfulness from the first sketch to the final 3D renderings was clearly evident in each design.

The CEI Evergreens were tasked to create a garden that would supplement the veteran’s food needs and provide products that could be sold to assist residents of the community in maintaining a livelihood. Through their own research, students constructed a site plan for the collaborative farm which included storage, shade nets, trellises and cages, prep space and a bathroom, galvanized steel raised garden beds, and a self-watering drip irrigation system.  Students produced an analysis of the soil, analyzed weather patterns, sourced fruits and vegetables that would thrive in the environment, and produced a report that will be sent to 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office in order to approve the garden for creation. Their proposal includes specific growing instructions for each suggested crop, instructions on creating sage bundles and pickled vegetables to sell, and a detailed layout of each garden bed designed to maximize the yield of each plant. 

To culminate their countless hours of research and hard work, students presented their proposals on Wednesday, April 26 to the organizations and individuals that made this project possible. Dr. Kwock Hu was in attendance, along with Founders of Life Source Oasis Dee Crouch and Cassandra Vanterpool; Associate Professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills Renata E. Valree; and Julie Alli, member of the Board of the National Association for Community Mediation. In celebration of their impactful work, District Representative Michael Aguilera-Gaudette presented each student with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition on behalf of Congressman Adam Schiff.

When asked about the partnership with Marlborough, and the final products the students created, Dr. Lindsay Kwok Hu shared, “I've always believed students have the capacity to lead and make a substantive impact on their community and the students at Marlborough are no exception. The 'real-world' work they've done to support our unhoused female veterans will have a ripple effect, positively impacting their families, their local community and the greater Los Angeles community. The students at Marlborough, through their dedication, creativity, and innovation, represent all that is good in this world and I am so proud and grateful to both the school and their teachers for such a gratifying experience.”

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