VIDEO: Tiny house is big success for Lake Cowichan School’s shop students

There’s been an unusual addition to the many buildings of the Lake Cowichan School complex: a tiny home.

It’s been a four-year project that LCS shop teacher Dale Combs will be able to look back on with pride as he heads into retirement.

The house is so small that only four people were allowed to enter it at any one time when Combs and his class showed it off to school and district officials on Wednesday, June 13.

It all began four years ago when the Cowichan Valley school district was reorganized, and the middle school concept was discontinued.

Combs, who had been shop teacher at Mt. Prevost Middle School, was moved to the newly re-named Lake Cowichan School. He’d been a popular teacher among his middle school students, and, with his obvious enthusiasm and experience, he was ideally suited to come to a school that would include Grades 4-12.

Colleagues smiled as they related experiences of seeing him holding enthralled a class of the school’s younger students.

He was also able to bring his hands-on skills and personable manner to his senior classes as well, particularly when he decided to start building a tiny home as an ongoing school project.

“This has taken four years,” he said, standing in front of the house last week, and spreading his arms wide.

One student still in the program has been there from the beginning but those who have graduated are still taking an interest in the project.

Although Combs and his students had been running flat out, the home was not quite finished by June 13, so he warned visitors who wanted a peek inside not to try coming down the stair facing forwards.

“It’s been tried before. People have done it and they’ve wiped out. Turn around and come down that way. You can use the stairs as handrails. Don’t forget to go around the corner and check out all the rooms. There’s two,” he said.

“And another qualifier, we’re not quite finished. If you look at the kitchen you’ll see there are no cupboard doors on the cabinets yet. We hung the top cabinets this morning. We are still working on it and we still have a few things left to do. We haven’t been sitting back. We did our best,” Combs said.

Despite that, the home has plenty of curb appeal, with its fresh white door, attractive black trim and deck with a sliding glass door, which will provide plenty of light inside. Its hip roof hides plenty of space upstairs, and its being built by students only adds to the appeal.

It was also a special day for Combs, who is retiring from teaching this year.

“He’s been a gift. No other school does stuff like this,” said fellow teacher Chris Rolls.

Monroe Grobe, the Cowichan Valley school district’s operations manager, agreed about Combs’ effect on the school.

“He’s leaving hard shoes to fill,” he said.

During the open house, Combs and his students offered the many visitors several stations in the shop working area, where they could try out some of the skills used in building the house. There were air hammers for brads and nails to try out, tile-cutting and electric wiring stations, even a place to try laying down flooring. And there was a nail driving competition as well, for anyone who thought they were skillful with a hammer. Soon, there was a happy buzz as everyone who had seen the house or was waiting for a chance tried out the tools, under the watchful eyes of student instructors.

LCS shop teacher Dale Combs describes the four-year tiny house project. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Combs, who is retiring this year after to moving to LCS from Mt. Prevost, will be much missed say colleagues and friends. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Dale Combs talks about the tiny house to school trustee Randy Doman and Ryan Gough from the VIU Trades Centre. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Combs welcomes everyone to come and take a look but reminds them that only four people can fit in at a time. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Long after the original presentation, people were still making their way into LCS’s tiny house for a look-see. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Teacher Michelle Weir is delighted to learn how to cut tile at one of the ‘stations’ set up in the LCS shop . (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
LCS teacher Pat Biello tries his hand at wiring, under student supervision, at the electrical ‘station’. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

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