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Students buy tiny house for Seattle homeless camp

Students from Seattle's Hazel Wolf school bought, painted tiny home for Othello homeless encampment. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE - Public school hallways typically look the same; shiny floors, rows of lockers, lights overhead. The hallway leading to Ms. Rose Palmer's classroom at Hazel Wolf K-8 School in Seattle has those things and much more. Rows of garland overhead, reveal the lessons being taught right now.

Walking to her classroom, your eyes are drawn up to photos of people who are homeless and phrases that they may hold on street corners:

"Hungry"

"Homeless but not hopeless"

"God Bless"

After reading these signs and staring into the faces in those photos, you enter Ms. Palmer's classroom and see a group of 12 and 13-year-old students, who Ms. Palmer proudly says, 'get it'. A framed sign inside the classroom reads:

"Human rights

Social justice

Current events"

"They're people. They're people who are homeless, they're not homeless people," said Eli Abrahamson, a 13-year-old student in Ms. Palmer's 'Project Learning' class. Last year this class took on the project of producing the school's yearbook. This year's project is homelessness.

They're learning all about people who end up homeless, how they live, the struggles they face and more. Each class starts with a quote presented by Ms. Palmer that the students write down in their journals.

"There was a quote a couple months ago that said, 'Inclusion and equality isn't giving everybody the same thing it's giving them what they need to succeed'. And I think that just really speaks to what our classroom is," said Zoe Lemchen.

Moving through this lesson plan, the class decided to buy a tiny house to be placed at Seattle's New Othello Village, a sanctioned homeless encampment, featuring tiny houses, tents, a cook tent, plus bathroom and shower facilities. The cost for one tiny house is $2,900.

"And so far we've got 136 dollars," said Maya Sundberg.

Every student takes on a task to accomplish this goal, learning valuable lessons along the way. Some students are writing letters, soliciting donations. Others are in charge of writing thank you cards.

Eli even went to a local community meeting to speak about the project and the need for the community to step up and help.

"Knowing that I can move people with my voice is really powerful," he said.

Maya chimed in saying, "Everybody matters, no matter what size or where you're from or if you have a disability."

This is a class that practices full 'inclusion' which means there are students with and without disabilities, learning together in one class, no separate special education class.

"The real beautiful thing that happens is when you have other kids helping and coaching and supporting the person with the disability who's having a hard time saying what it is they want to say or doing what they need to do and you witnesses that," said Ms. Palmer.

When a student is struggling to find words or speak up in class, all others encourage that student to succeed. When Karina Keck struggled to spell her name aloud, her fellow students told her she could do it and eventually all recited aloud with her, letter by letter, to help her spell out her name.

"Helping people is the best thing you can do for yourself," said Maya.

The students help each other daily and now they're entirely dedicated to helping the homeless in Seattle.

Ms. Palmer paid for the tiny house out of her pocket and the students are now working to raise the money to pay her back. They're also making that tiny house, now in place at Othello Village, a home for a family. They took a field trip to the village to paint the house and decorate it to make it a home. The student chose the colors and then painted it up and enjoyed lunch with residents in the village. For 12 and 13 year olds, this has been quite a lesson in many ways.

"I felt like I wasn't doing enough for my community a couple months ago and last year I decided to join this class and all we're about it inclusion an did helped me a lot with relationships and knowing different people," said 13-year-old MattiaFerrante

"Doing the work isn't hard because we're so passionate about it and because we care about it. The hard part is learning that these are people that have gone through horrible things and are still till going through hard things and not having a home that's the hard part," said 13-year-oldLaurel Aronson.

"You can be part of the solution," said Eli.

Hearing all of her students talk about what they've learned Ms. Palmer started tearing up.

"So why am I tearing up because it's great work and I'm so honored to be surrounded by 12 and 12 year olds who get it," said Ms. Palmer.

After 31 years of teaching Ms. Palmer said she really is still just as excited and enthusiastic to get to school today - as she was on her very first day.

"Don't I have a great job? Yes I do! I do have a great job," exclaimed Ms. Palmer.

To help the students reach their goal of raising $2,900, you can mail a check to Hazel Wolf K-8,

520 NE Ravenna Blvd., Seattle, WA 98115

Att. Rose Palmer/Tiny House Project

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