A is for Apartment
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two girls reading a book

By Dr. Carla Earhart |

May 19, 2022 |

Updated June 1, 2022

4 minutes

How one Ball State University professor is working to increase elementary school teachers’ awareness, acceptance and appreciation for apartments. 

What did you learn about housing in elementary school? 

More specifically, what did you learn from your elementary teachers about multifamily housing? 

If you don’t remember learning anything about apartments and renting in elementary school, your memory is likely correct—you probably weren’t exposed to these housing options at all. 

For the past year, I have been working to address this issue with my research/teaching assistant, elementary education student Hannah McKellar, along with a group of Property Management students at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Through our investigations of lesson plans related to “home” in grades K-5, we have discovered that most of these lesson plans focus on a traditional single-family detached house, with little if any exposure to apartments and renting. In these activities, elementary-age children are more typically asked to draw their “house,” or to write about their “house,” or to talk about their “dream house,” and the like. 

We have also reviewed a variety of children’s books related to housing, finding that “houses” are often portrayed positively (even glamorized) in these books, whereas apartments are frequently portrayed negatively, if they are included in these stories at all. 

Breaking From the Norm

It is doubtful that elementary educators are purposely omitting apartments and renting from the curriculum. Instead, teachers are likely sharing what they are familiar with, what they are comfortable with, the housing norm we have all been conditioned to prefer: the “American Dream” of owning a single-family detached house. 

We are seeking to expand elementary teachers’ understanding of a broader range of housing options through a project titled “‘Home’ Work: Expanding Housing Education in the Elementary Grades.” Increasing teachers’ awareness, acceptance, and appreciation for apartments is important for a variety of reasons, as shared in an article, “Teaching About ‘Home’ Is Culturally Responsive Teaching,” we recently published in The Teacher Advocate.

  • Many children live in apartments and need to be respected for their family’s housing choices. And they need to see examples of children like themselves in the books and activities shared in the classroom.
  • Today’s children are tomorrow’s housing consumers and also tomorrow’s community leaders. What they learn today will affect the apartment industry in the future, positively or negatively.
  • And if introduced to the apartment industry in a positive way at an early age, today’s children have a greater likelihood of becoming part of tomorrow’s apartment industry talent pool. 

The apartment industry needs to partner with teachers for other reasons, in addition to those mentioned above. Teachers have been hit hard by a lack of affordable housing and need a better understanding of the advantages and opportunities available through rental housing. Teachers can become excellent advocates for rental housing, to benefit their students and to benefit themselves. 

Ball State University recently awarded us a Creative Teaching Grant, which we are using to create apartment-related training materials for current and future elementary teachers. We will pilot test these training materials with a small group of current and future elementary teachers in summer 2022 and look forward to analyzing the results in fall 2022. It is our plan to then examine ways to incorporate these training materials into professional development seminars for current teachers and/or university classes for future teachers. 

What You Can Do

What can apartment industry professionals do to help teachers and young children develop a positive association with multifamily rental housing?

  • Donate apartment-friendly children’s books to elementary school libraries; see the list of some of our favorites in the sidebar.
  • Offer to speak to elementary classes about multifamily housing in general, or more specifically about careers in the apartment industry.
  • Even better, invite an elementary class to your apartment community to show them the apartment homes and amenities up close, and let them meet the staff who take great care of the
  • apartment community and the residents.
  • Sponsor professional development opportunities for teachers in your area to increase their awareness, acceptance and appreciation of multifamily rental housing, who will then share that knowledge and understanding with the students in their classrooms.

Our Favorite Apartment-Friendly Children’s Books

  • Busybody Nora by Johanna Hurwitz
  • Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee
  • My Building by Robin Isabel Ahrens
  • The ABC Book of American Homes by Michael Shoulders
  • The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen

 

Dr. Carla Earhart is the Founding Director of the Residential Property Management program at Ball State University in 1999 and was the 2007 recipient of the Apartment Careers and Education (ACE) Award. Early in her academic career, she took a sabbatical to gain experience working in a variety of sectors of the apartment industry. In her current role at Ball State, she focuses on teaching, research and service activities that bring greater awareness, acceptance and appreciation of the multifamily housing industry. In 2020, she created and pilot-tested training materials for members of the apartment industry, to help them address the opposition that often plagues this industry. Dr. Earhart can be reached at [email protected]