Stylish Home, Student-Built, Comes Complete with Working Train

Fifth-Graders’ Parade of Homes Boasts Inventive Touches

Nya Fields with the four-bedroom, two-story house she conceived and built

Henry VanderMolen wore a snazzy navy blue blazer with his usual school uniform of T-shirt and sneakers. He was dressed as a real estate agent, he explained. This turned out to be fitting, considering Henry was showing a home as part of the second annual Fifth Grade Parade of Homes, open to all students and parents at Wealthy Elementary.

Like the real-life Parade of Homes it borrowed its name from, all manner of residential construction was represented on the pint-sized tour via dozens of foam board homes on display in the school’s gymnasium.

There was a house on paper-towel-tube stilts with a helicopter pad on the roof. Another with a train-track moat, complete with a working train. A car jump. Basketball court. Two treehouses. Fully furnished and painstakingly detailed interiors. Landscaping and lighting.

The fifth-graders used measurement and multiplication skills in teacher Kelly Froelich’s Investigations class — which focuses on activities in science, technology, engineeringand math — to design their homes on paper and the computer. The project also included a cost analysis on flooring, decorating and other components before breaking ground on their foam core construction.

“The students absolutely love it,” Froelich said. “This gives us a foundation for more two- and three-dimensional work.”

Yes, those are can lights: Greta Lumpen particularly enjoyed the interior decoration portion of the project

Don’t Forget the Punch List

Meanwhile, back on the tour, Henry and classmate Luka Stemec explained key features of the house they built together.

“We have lots of pets,” Henry offered first. And oh, four bedrooms, 3 ½ bathrooms, an extra-deep garage and an arcade.

How did they know what size to make rooms, floors and hallways?

“Area and perimeter,” Henry said.

Chimed in Luka: “And precise angles.”

Were there any issues during construction?

“The foam board was cheap but the paint and flooring was really expensive,” Luka said.

“Too big of walls at first,” Henry said.

Added Luka, “And it took way longer than I thought.”

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HBA Parade of Homes

Luka Stemec, left, and Henry VanderMolen teamed up to build this four-bedroom, 3 ½ bath house with an arcade “and lots of pets,” Henry said
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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