Place Network Students Making a Big Impact with Tiny Home Project

“Place-conscious education […] aims to enlist teachers and students in the firsthand experience of local life and in the political process of understanding and shaping what happens there.”

— David A. Gruenewald, “Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for Place-Conscious Education”


In September 2018, Place Network teacher Devon Barker-Hicks embarked on an ambitious place-based journey with her Meadow Valley School eighth grade students. Their project? An 8 x 24 foot tiny home. Their goal? To raise money for an ADA-compliant playground and raise awareness for the housing crisis that has gripped their rural mountain community of New Meadows, Idaho. It’s a place-based project that has students studying housing in their region and around the world, green living, grant writing, the trades, construction, repurposing, and even a hint of real estate sales. Entering into its sixth month this February, the project has already made an impact in and received overwhelming support from the community.

By October 2018, with donations from local businesses, students finished framing and insulating the floor, laid plywood flooring down, taped the interior dimensions to their classroom floor, and brainstormed plans for their tiny home kitchen. And through active engagement with local community members, students learned how to sell their project (they plan to put the Mountaineer Tiny Home up for silent auction at the beginning of May and to close by May 16th) and address the complex economic challenges their community faces from the lack of affordable housing. They’ve also been keeping City Council regularly updated on their project’s progression.

From a place-based education design standpoint, the project is a prime example of using community as the classroom and exemplifies many of the goals and benefits of the place-based learning model we implement at Teton Science Schools:

  • Learning grounded in local communities and contexts
  • Students challenged to see the world through ecological, political, economic and social lenses
  • Learning is relevant and engaging
  • Instruction can be interdisciplinary
  • Students gain better appreciation and understanding of the world around them

Will the project solve the housing crisis and spark a tiny home movement in New Meadows? Barker-Hicks is unsure. What she is sure of is the benefit this “pay-it-forward” project will have on the community and her students down the line.


As of January, students had finished the roofing, walls, and window installation of their tiny home project. Next up on their agenda is plumbing, electricity, and perhaps even taking their 200 square foot project off-the-grid.

We look forward to seeing the final product, Meadows Valley. Keep building the ripple!


Interested in learning more about the Place Network? Contact us here


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