"My job is fun," said Nate Long, director of the academy of entrepreneurship at Lancaster County Christian School (LCCS). "I get to think of the creative things I wanted to do in high school and hopefully make them happen."
Fourteen LCCS high school students will get hands-on experience in a variety of areas as they work to transform a small bus Long purchased from Homestead Village into a type of tiny house. According to Long, the bus, which is 17 feet long and more than 7 feet wide, will be more like an RV when completed, but it will be fully functional with a bathroom and a kitchen, if a little smaller than the average tiny house.
Concepts that Long intends to teach as part of the project include stewardship of money, creativity of design, marketing, and empathy. He said students are considering questions like "What does your consumer want?" and "How would you feel living in this house?" as they make decisions about design and function.
Long said that the project will be student driven. "The tiny house is a chance to experience things and get their hands dirty," said Long, who has charged students with designing the interior starting with concepts and moving to 2-D and 3-D drawings. "We want them to see the process from the beginning to end. (The students) are making all the decisions." A former LCCS student who is now an employee of a Lancaster-based producer of tiny houses located nearby is acting as a consultant on the project.
Student Sarah Bustillo has been involved in laying out the floorplan for the tiny home, learning to use a 3-D model maker and receiving a crash course in the importance of measuring. "We have learned there are multiple ways to use space," said Bustillo, who noted that steps can also be storage units and counters can flip up to provide more living space. "You have to be creative."
Student Caleb Heck also collaborated on the layout process. "I thought the layout aspect would be easy, but after (a short time), I realized it is a meticulous process," he noted.
"What drew me to the project is that we want to teach critical thinking," explained Long. "How do we create a space that's efficient (and functional)? Thinking through that process has been awesome." Long described how one student imagined a coffee table that became a kitchen table and that had storage inside. When the student brought the idea to Long, he said, "Draw it out, and we can build it."
Work on the bus began on Oct. 10, and student Seth Stoltzfus was among those preparing the bus for conversion, cutting bolts to remove seats and completing the arduous process of extricating the wheelchair lift. "The wheelchair lift was bulky and heavy, and we had to look at (removing it) from a different angle," said Stoltzfus. "We had to think outside the box."
LCCS head of school Peter Hansen pointed out that the tiny house project fits with the mission of the school. "This project is about more than making money," he noted. "It's about serving the greater good and how do we as a school help that."
Overall learning goals for the project should reach far beyond the specifics of layout or how to remove bus seats, according to Long. "Our students can experience entrepreneurship by giving them experiences while teaching them principles," said Long. "We teach basic business principles in a way where they do the process, (because) teaching students to think and solve problems is a big part of what we do."
The project is also designed to teach collaboration skills and business ownership functions. "They are learning to be leaders," said Long. "We give them the basic skills to run a business (by doing it), and they take risks, but they are using real money, so ideas must be feasible," Long said.
LCCS is governed by a board of directors and managed by the head of school and administrative team. The school offers a Christ-centered and interdenominational curriculum for area children in prekindergarten through 12th grade.