Education Matters: California Tiny House partners with Fresno County schools


Fresno County is home to one of the top builders of tiny houses in the state.
“We started about three and a half years ago, and had I known what this would become back then I may have done things differently, expanded a little sooner than I did,” said Nick Mosley, co-founder of California Tiny House.
Mosley, whose family operates California Tiny House, said the movement isn’t going anywhere and will continue to grow. In that assessment, the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools saw an opportunity to grow its career technical education program.
“You have to stay up with what’s going on, and right now, there is such a huge demand for skilled labor coming out through our nation that anything we can do to give those kids an edge upon completion of high school is going to make them that much better and much more employable once they get out into the real workforce,” said Anthony Ayerza, area coordinator for Fresno County Superintendent of Schools career technical education (CTE).
Teaching students how to build a small house starts in the classroom with the teacher, and this summer, teachers from around the state are here to take part in a training program offered by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in partnership with California Tiny House.
Mike Van Winkle is one of those teachers.
“The ability to go actually hands on full scale in a shop that’s producing, that has incredible value for us as instructors,” said Van Winkle, CTE teacher at Mammoth Lakes High School.
He teaches the building and construction trades in Mammoth Lakes. He said he’s been in the trades for 35 years, but there is more he can learn.
“Everything that we are doing here, from the foundation, the trailer, framing – I’ve done that in all different capacities. But the skin, the scale and how it all functions in a space – that’s only 250-square-feet – that’s what was important,” Van Winkle said.
For Mendota High teacher Caitlin O’Connell, this is all new. She’s in her first year of teaching construction.
“It’s all new to me because I do not have a construction background. So it’s nice for me to get the experience – know all the different aspects of building a house really,” O’Connell said.
The curriculum for this training program and the one used in the schools was written by architect and CTE teacher Warren Thompson.
“It’s satisfying because when you look at this situation, there isn’t anything they wouldn’t run into in any construction shop everything here is real,” Thompson said.
A real hands-on construction project, builders say imagine the skills students are learning.
“It doesn’t have to be in the tiny house field they are learning every skills that goes into building a regular house from plumbing, electrical, roofing, windows, doors, framing all that stuff including metal fabrication so the skills that they are getting can apply to countless number of jobs,” Thompson said.
Teachers got the opportunity to see how students at Kerman High School are putting those skills to work building their own tiny house. The CTE instructor at Kerman High went through this same training program last year and look how far his students have come.
The majority of teachers participating in this weeklong training program say their plan is to go back to their school districts and have this tiny house curriculum ready to go by the fall semester.

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