G.P. Vanier brings classroom creativity to a whole new level of learning

Zakk Davidson might be ill at ease talking in front of a crowd of strangers but give him a table saw or a tail-router and set him free in a woodworking shop, he becomes an entirely different master in his craft.   That is because Davidson is quite comfortable and rather skilled in a unique setting that David Randall and fellow teachers Chris Armstrong, Dawson Ross, and Troy Dakiniewich created at G.P. Vanier Secondary.

The program is called Vanier Creative Collective a new course that debuted at the start of the 2018/19 school year, timed precisely with the unveiling of the recently renovated school campus. 

Davidson and a selection of classmates presented their individual project to the school trustees at their January Board meeting. Vanier’s Principal Julie Shields felt what better way to showcase her school’s new curriculum initiative than to the Board of Education as a way to celebrate the first cadre of students and their remarkable skills.

Creative Collective is a unique program that was adopted from a perceived need to change the way education is delivered according to Art teacher, Dave Randall.

“Creative Collective is a massively cross-curricular and cross-disciplinary program comprised of metalwork, woodwork, electronics, design, and art,” shared Randall. “It’s designed to have students create concrete artifacts with real-world applications. It’s based on a design production model of instruction that is heavily rooted in inquiry-based and student-centered learning.”

What makes this program so significance is that the learner, not the instructor, chooses what to create.

“There are no prescribed projects,” shared Randall. “Students create the project from design through to prototype and production.

The goals of the curriculum include encouraging entrepreneurial thinking so that students can transfer their skills into potential careers and jobs; encouraging artists and designers to engage in trades and, reversely, trades to engage in art and design; exposing students to the economic potential of their skills and interests; and attracting more students to the applied skills trades, particularly young women.

Student Austin Barnes is already well on his way to establishing a career with his creations Barnes presented two items, a longboard built from scratch and a custom-built car shift knob made from repurposed longboard material, and shared his news of the launch of a longboard business.

“I learned a whole bunch of new skills that I can probably use for the rest of my life,” said Barnes. “It was totally worth it. I got to explore all these new [skills] I would never have done if it wasn’t for this course.”

Brynn Creek and classmate Evan Barker each made a wood table in which the centre is split and an epoxy composite material, turquoise-blue in colour, is placed to give the project a dramatic effect.

[Watch Brynn Creek in action on our YouTube channel here https://youtu.be/XADfI2qAS7o]

To complete the table, Creek had to acquire both skill and confidence in welding and, with help of classmate Barker, collaborated closely throughout the process.

“I never thought I’d be into trades. I have always loved arts,” expressed Creek.  “Last year, I had no idea what I wanted to do post-secondary but after taking this class I’m definitely taking more shop classes and art classes. It’s very exciting for me!”

Davidson steered away from contemporary projects and chose a vintage shield, authentically designed and made. The shield, complete with handle, weighed in at close to 40 pounds. To the unsuspecting eye, you might assume it was a museum artifact or a prop on a movie set.  He dedicated 50 hours alone on the handle according to teacher Dakiniewich.

“He carved it by hand, he shaped it by hand, and he came in every lunch hour for probably five or six weeks whittling away on this,” added Dakiniewich. “I kept telling him, ‘we’ve got machines you can use,’ and he said, ‘I want it to be historically accurate and want to do it like they [Vikings] would have done.’”

Randall explained that three distinct styles of learning were explored. Project-based learning. The project is the curriculum. Students create an object of value to them and in the process achieve all the learning outcomes in the production. Problem-based learning. Students need to solve a problem with the skills and abilities that they have. Third, design-based learning, creating an object that serves a purpose.

The learning also involved a great deal of resilience and failure, an aspect of the process that was necessary to advance students’ skills to the next level. Caitlyn Sanderson created a pair of dice complete with a handcrafted bag branded with her own distinctively designed logo. She worked through a journey of trial and error to produce a remarkable, highly marketable product. According to Randall, she exemplified failure as process.

“There’s this assumption that when students are learning something it always has to result in success, that the failure is somehow something to be avoided,” explained Randall. “So, attempt, fail, rethink, redesign, reconfigure, start again, and move on to the next step.”

The Creative Collective inaugural course of students who presented included Kenisha Anderson, Evan Barker, Austin Barnes, Brynn Creek, Zakk Davidson, Abigail Forth, Abi Ogilvie, and Caitlin Sanderson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a full explanation of the Creative Collective Program and the selection of original projects presented, visit YouTube for a video recording of the January 22nd Board Meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3RqFemdSbU

 

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