Elementary Students Lead the Charge on Housing for All

Excerpts from an article by Ashley R. Williams, Breaking News Reporter at USA Today April 5, 2023

“What if?” was the phrase Madeline Herrera, Co-Founder of the Limestone Community Schools, asked one of her students. The response elicited a call to action, pulling our team into the fold and highlighting the power of what a first and second-grade class can achieve.

Madeline had been working on an exercise with her class where she would ask, “What if,” and her students would reply with grand declarations. The practice had been ignited by LeVar Burton’s A Kids Book About Imagination. One student responded, “What if everyone had a home?” Madeline asked her class how they might solve such a problem. Subsequently, Madeline and her cohort at Limestone Community Schools approached our Lawrence team to see if there was interest in assisting in designing a home.

Tyler Lindquist, Office Manager of Multistudio’s Lawrence studio, said, “Seeing the students imagine, reflect, design, and present, all through a lens of Universal Design, has been extraordinary to experience, and it shows the great importance of developing critical-thinking skills for children at this age. Who would have thought first and second-graders would even know what Universal Design is? I didn’t even know. But because they met with an ADA advisor and community housing organizations, it was brought to their attention.”

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that all people can access, understand, and use it to the greatest extent possible regardless of age, size, ability, or disability. An environment should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. Universal Design is not a special requirement for the benefit of only a minority; it is a fundamental condition of good design.

Madeline’s class has made it their goal to raise $120,000 for building materials. The properties on which the houses will sit have been donated by an organization called Tenants to Homeowners, a program run by the Lawrence Community Housing Trust.

Read on to learn more about Madeline, her class, and our involvement at the link below.

Young students learning to dream to scale

Steve Vukelich, vice president of collaborative design company Multistudio, is working with Limestone’s students to design the homes. There was a bit of a learning curve at first.

“We quickly learned the concept of scale is really difficult for first and second graders to grasp; the kids dream really big,” Vukelich told USA TODAY.

A blueprint drawing created by a Limestone Community School student in Lawrence, Kansas, shows the plan for one of the homes the students hope to have built as early as April.“They had elaborate designs, and we had to find ways to show we (can’t) fit 12 rooms on the first floor of a 400-square foot home,” he said.

Several hands-on activities teaching students to tape measure their more than 1,000-square-foot classroom and count floor tiles helped them design more realistic spaces, according to Vukelich.

“(They) looked at their own restrooms, kitchen cabinets, and (we) just asked them questions like, ‘does that seem big enough? Is there enough room to move around the bed? How does this work in your home?” Vukelich said.

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