BERRIEN SPRINGS — Dogs and cats can learn to live together, and so can we all, the young participants in the Renaissance Kids architecture camp believe.
That vision of coexistence is the idea behind one of the many projects the young builders created this summer. Their projects will be auctioned with other items Aug. 4 to raise money for a “tiny house” for a homeless resident.
An indoor dog house has a kitty condo perched on top. Outside the dog house is a device with a dog toy on one end and a cat toy on the other. When the canine plays with his toy, it entices the feline to jump at the other one.
“Architecture needs to connect us with nature, it needs to connect us with each other, and it needs to connect us with our choices,” said Mark Moreno, an associate professor of architecture at Andrews who founded Renaissance Kids in 2007. The theme this year is “Compelling Dwellings.”
All of that came together when Moreno was approached by Cara Gillespie, youth coordinator for St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Benton Harbor, to take part in their “Tiny Houses for Big Change” fundraising effort.
“For the kids, it cements the idea that we can work together as a community, that they can do things, that you don’t have to be powerful or famous, or even an adult,” Gillespie said.
Moreno emphasized that none of the ideas for the projects came from him, but originated with the Renaissance Kids, who range in age from 5 to 16.
It was their idea to combine the dog and cat house and make the swinging toy. After they drilled holes in the cat penthouse, they noticed it looked like a block of Swiss cheese, and decided to paint it yellow. One of the holes is shaped like a scurrying mouse.
The outdoor dog house with the birdhouse attached to it was dubbed “The Red Ruff Inn.”
Brett Tutton is one of the Andrews architecture students helping out with Renaissance Kids this summer. He participated in the camp 10 years ago, and said it was a major inspiration toward his career choice.
He has been impressed with the creativity of the younger kids.
“They came up with some amazing things,” he said. “They came up with crazy ideas, and we helped make it happen.”
Some of the ideas for the “tiny house” came out of actual miniature models. Not all suggestions were realized. A zip line, for instance, didn’t make it off the drawing board.
Among the items to be auctioned are three large playhouses, one of which is 14 feet tall. It was the idea of student Daijah Strickland to make a space in this house where parents and kids could play together “and to connect it to nature,” Moreno said.
Another project, that won’t be on the auction block, is an 18-by-8 foot structure that will be used as a student lounge. Again, it was the imagination of the kids that suggested a conversation pit, storage for backpacks, and space for light boards for the architecture students to use.
Items that will be auctioned, in addition to the architectural projects, include appliances donated by Whirlpool Corp. Students are working on art projects, as well.
Isabelle Roos, 12, is working on colorful paintings of sea turtles on wood blocks. This is her first year with Renaissance Kids, and she said it has helped her drawing skills.
St. Augustine’s is working with Harbor Habitat for Humanity on the tiny house project. They propose to construct a 150-square-foot dwelling that will serve as transitional housing until an individual can find a permanent home. It would be the first tiny house in the area.
The participants in St. Augustine’s Children’s Chapel have raised money for numerous projects, and this year identified the tiny house as the goal they wanted to work toward.
The project, which has a GoFundMe page, has already reached its initial $35,000 goal. The construction of the first tiny house, by Andrews students, will begin in 2020, and they are now planning for a second tiny house, Gillespie said.
“Never in my wildest dreams did It expect it to go so quickly and so well,” Gillespie said.
Moreno said the enthusiasm and creativity of his students has exceeded his expectations, as well.
“My goal is to empower the kids to make a positive change in the world,” Moreno said. “We show them that they can make a place better.”
The auction will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Andrews University Architecture Building, 8435 E. Campus Circle Drive, Berrien Springs. There will be door prizes and refreshments.
Information is at andrews.edu/said/renaissance-kids-auction. Those who would like to contribute or volunteer can contact Cara Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org. The GoFundMe site is www.gofundme.com/65ha1uo.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak