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Vancouver Island school gets visit from Netflix show hosts for tiny home competition

Pilot Tiny Home elective was offered for Grades 4-7
Caleb Knudsen took first place in the Tiny Home Challenge. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A Port Alberni school had a chance to take part in a new pilot competition aimed at developing innovative housing solutions.

Teacher Toban Brooks from John Paul II Catholic School in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island organized a Tiny Home elective this year where students from Grade 4 to 7 worked to design and develop a model of a sustainable tiny home using only recycled materials.

On June 10, students shared their completed tiny homes in a design competition for Micro Housing Macro Impact. Micro Housing Macro Impact is planning to host a global design competition every year, open to students 17 years old and younger. But they wanted to start with a small pilot competition, which is where John Paul II came in.

The competition, which took place via videoconferencing, was hosted by John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin, the hosts of the Netflix series Tiny House Nation. Guest judges for the competition included Port Alberni mayor Sharie Minions, Ladysmith mayor Aaron Stone and Squamish councillor Chris Pettingill.

Caleb Knudsen, the winner of the competition, described the experience as “crazy.” The Grade 6 student said he was inspired by his dad, who also builds houses.

“I really like looking at what he’s building,” said Knudsen. “It inspired me to try and build my own. When I saw there was an elective to build tiny houses, I thought that would be a good start and I could try learning from that. I didn’t even know there was going to be a competition and it really surprised me that I won.”

Knudsen built a cardboard model of a home, complete with a sleeping loft stocked with comfy pillows. He said he wanted to build a house that felt “comfortable.”

Knudsen’s prize was a scholarship towards STEM Xposure’s Global Tiny Home Experience Virtual Summer Camp—an architectural design and construction camp, where children and teens from around the world will have a chance to design a tiny home that will actually be built. Knudsen said he is planning to attend the camp in the summer.

Eight teams from John Paul II shared their designs with the judges. Minions said she was impressed by how unique the different housing designs were.

“It’s really incredible to see these ideas coming from children,” said Minions. “To have housing approached from a Grade 4, 5, 6 or 7 student is very different than how I would approach housing or how you would approach housing. I think that’s a lot of what brings the uniqueness to these designs, is the approach that we’re coming from.”

Brooks said his students “amazed” him with their work.

“This is such a great chance for these kids to share their ideas, bring them to life,” he said. “It’s giving these kids a chance to go out and bring positive change to the world.

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Griffin Hammond Messenger and Elliot Warman celebrate their second place win. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Ethan Sterling and Brady Turner share their tiny home with the guest judges. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Gitanjali Sharma and Halle Fearing of John Paul II took second place in the Tiny Home Challenge. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)