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“A house is like building a work of art– from the roof to the foundation to the plumbing. Everyone leaves a piece of themselves with the house they build. Isn’t that cool?”

Franklin Elementary students nodded enthusiastically, hands shooting into the air to share their own housing stories.

This week, Spring Creek and Franklin Elementary classes received donations from a few members of The House that She Built Project. The project is comprised of Utah women from the National Association of Home Builders who designed and constructed a home that, according to the website, “highlight(s) and utilize(s) women professionals, skilled tradeswomen, and women-owned companies on all stages of the project.” After the group built and showcased the home for the 2021 Utah Valley Parade of Homes event, project members put together a book called “The House that She Built.” Each page of the book illustrates how architects, framers, roofers, and many others contribute knowledge and skills to raise a house from the ground up.

Project members then visit schools to read and donate copies of the book, hopefully getting more girls interested in construction. President Jennie Tanner and Founder Kristin Smith visited Franklin Elementary, and during their visit, the two answered questions on everything from building homes to career options to general building know-how.

Kristin read the book aloud, each page drawing out more student stories. “My grandma is a builder! She’s over eighty now, but she still crawled up on the roof to help my dad patch a hole,” one student exclaimed. “Our family was worried sick she would fall, but she was sturdy as a table up there.” Another student recalled landscaping with his father, proudly proclaiming that he’s poured concrete to set deck posts on numerous occasions.

Students had their fair share of questions about the building process. “Do you really use math to build?” One student asked. “Yes– the math you’re learning in class right now is used every day. Engineers and architects use math to design your house. The construction crew and the framers and cabinet makers– everyone uses basic math skills every day when building.” Chatter broke out; kids expressed a newfound appreciation and interest in their current math assignment.

“Do you have to be strong to work on housing?” “No, you don’t need to be a big, strong person to build homes. We use big machines and remote controls to lift tubes and move wood. We have technology so everyone can create housing. Everyone is free to build what they imagine.”

Kristin and Jennie shared stories about The House That She Built project. Jennie told a story about the brick-signing day where their team invited girls to come out, sign bricks, and “butter bricks” with mortar to line the basement of the home. “All of the bricks are signed by girls from Provo. We held an open house for the people of Provo to visit, and those two girls raced through the home, ran to their brick, and pointed, yelling, “these are our bricks! We helped build this house!”

After their stories, students discussed their personal housing projects or lived experiences in a new apartment or remodeled housing– even more talked with one another about how they’d build their dream living space.

The book landed home with the students. Jennie and Kristin’s visit frames viable futures for students imagining a world built by their hands. Experiences like these are foundational for kids– and our collective futures, too.

Read more about The House that She Built project, or pick up your own copy of the book.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei