Monday, November 5, 2012

Teaching Alternative Housing at Sonoma Academy

Last year I met a woman named Erin Axelrod, who works primarily for Daily Acts, a local non-profit with a mission to encourage and enable people to make changes in their daily behaviors that conserve resources and improve the community. She also works part time for Sonoma Academy, a private college prep high school in Santa Rosa. I was thrilled when she invited us to bring our Towhee tiny house last spring to show it off to the students and teachers and give a short talk to the school about the green benefits of tiny housing.

First we displayed the house in the courtyard and students flocked around to hear about the house and check it out. At one point we had a dozen sophomores hanging out in the loft all at once, and they liked it so much they didn't want to come down. A couple of the guys sat in chairs on the porch and played guitar a bit while people went in and out. It was one of the first times we had taken the house out to open it up to the public, so it was really fun to see it in such a beautiful setting.

For the school wide talk I focused on the business I've started and specifics of tiny houses, but when we went to the classroom we did a general overview on greener housing in general, especially about how the large size of houses today is an issue with housing that can't adequately be balanced by green features of the sort promoted by LEED (leadership in energy efficient design) or Build it Green. Solar panels and Forestry Council Certified wood products are a great choice, but they still have their environmental cost. You may be reducing overall impact by using 300 sheets of FCS plywood, but far better to use 30 by building smaller and greener homes.  We discussed the strides made in creating comfortable energy efficient houses with super insulating techniques and more efficient appliances, then discussing more exotic methods like earthship, cob, and rammed earth construction. The students were wonderful; smart, engaged, and interested in asking deep and sometimes challenging questions.

From attending the school wide assembly and working with this amazing group of kids,  I was able to see plainly how independent thought, academic excellence, and global citizenship was clearly cultivated in every aspect of education in this school. It was a privilege and joy to share some information on my favorite subjects with the students in Erin's class at Sonoma Academy.