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Real Purpose with Real Clients

Written on December 11th, 2017

When Matt Rock began the grade 11 Construction Technology class in September, he knew it was going to be a different kind of semester. Even though past projects in this class kept students engaged with useful skills and practical end products that students could take home, this semester’s project wasn’t for the students to keep. It is for someone else.

That someone else is a local company called Forest City Fire Protection (FCFP). CEO of FCFP Randy Bird and his wife Karen, are the clients these London District Christian Secondary School students have to please with their final product. Students are excited to be doing something for someone else, not just themselves, and enjoy the added thrill of visiting FCFP multiple times before the project is completed.

“We get to have real world applications because we had to interview the Birds and had to go there and we will be installing it. Usually you are in the classroom researching, but in this class we got to interview them (the Birds) to hear what their business is about from their point of view instead of an article.” - Ethan teBrake, Student

FCFP was started in 1985 by Bird’s father. The students are working on two different projects for FCFP. The first is a commemorative art piece incorporating the blueprints of Bird’s father’s first job: fire suppression for a chinese food restaurant (no longer in existence) in Masonville Mall. This large wall art, designed by the students, will also incorporate a tree made from piping and lights with the values of the company etched into them. The art piece will symbolize the history of the company and the importance of family, strength, and growth. It will be hung proudly in the boardroom at FCFP head office. The second project is a set of solid wood shelving supported by piping with a feature wall of wood and pipe for the staff room at FCFP.

Students went through an intensive planning process before deciding on the final design. Since then they’ve been busy preparing the wood, cutting pipe, and laying out the design on the floor of the Maker Studio. Students are required to use a number of skills to complete this project including using the laser cutter, doing electrical work, pipe fitting, woodworking, budgeting, and designing collaboratively with others. However, that’s not even the most exciting part.

“Instead of being just in class the whole time working on some cabinet project, we’re actually going out to a company [FCFP] and having meetings with them and using their opinions to design what they want. It’s nice to have the real world applied to our class. You get to work with different tools that you’ve never used before. I got to use a grinder for the first time to cut angles on pipes and to use different materials other than wood.” - Zach Burggraaf, Student

What is really exciting is that Construction Tech is moving in a direction where what is created in class has a place and purpose outside the school community. Students are not just making objects for themselves anymore, but are creating projects that have real purpose for real clients. It is Project Based Learning at its finest and will teach creative thinking, problem solving, and self regulation. No matter what a student’s future field of work, they will need those skills.

The final reveal of the project will be at the Celebration of Learning event on Tuesday, December 19th. It will include documentation of the student’s process, followed by Randy and Karen Bird presenting before the artwork’s reveal—which will cap a semester’s worth of work appropriately with the praise these students deserve.