The interactive play structure was created, designed and built by Tri-County students in the Carpentry, Early Education and Graphic Communications vocational programs. Students were challenged with working both within their individual vocational areas to create their piece of the project while collaborating with the other programs in order to complete the project.
Under the supervision of licensed vocational teachers, Early Education students acted as the project managers in order to ensure the play structure met the specifications from the Plainville Library. Dramatic play is an important method of learning for young children, and prop boxes, as they're called, are play materials grouped by theme, which make this activity even more effective.
Early Education students created four prop box themes and materials while consulting with Graphic Communications on the visuals. The prop boxes included camping, a pizza restaurant, a bakery, and a movie theatre. Lesson plans were then created for table top activities and extended activities for some of the equipment and materials the library already had. A fifth prop box, with the theme of automotive repair, will be donated to the library in the first week of May.
Students in Carpentry worked on designing and building a multi-functional structure. After learning the project specifications from Early Education students, they created a design which consisted of three structural boxes: a refrigerator, and interchangeable sink area and an oven. This was done utilizing a 3D modeling software called Sketchup. Carpentry students honed their skills in milling, sizing, designing, installing, and finishing. Once the structure was built, students from Auto Collision Technology sprayed the structure with a clear coat of paint to preserve the finish.
The next part of the unit's requirements would encompass a protective "glass-like" cover in order to be able to change the graphic panels. Graphic communications students worked with Early Education students to implement the themes that were to be developed. Graphic students created artwork according to the specifications outlined by the Carpentry shop. Once the designs were approved by Early Education, Graphics then printed and laminated the artwork. The laminated prints had to be cut down precisely to fit the openings of the windows in the structure.
The challenges students faced were realizing that the sizing had to be the exact fraction to decimal conversion so the artwork could fit the template. The graphics students learned the challenge of illustration in allowing the freedom in terms of look and feel, as long as the theme was obvious and matched the lessons that Early Education students had developed.
"The Interactive Play Structure made by Tri-County students is amazing," said Laura Brillant-Giangrande, Children's Librarian, Plainville Public Library. "The response from the children has been wonderful. The children are excited to pretend and interact with each other as they engage in the themed activities and play out their ideas. There is so much more socialization happening, and that is exactly what I was hoping to accomplish as part of the Kindergarten readiness programming."
An additional component to the project was to extend the goal of Play with A Purpose while at home. Tri-County students incorporated technology with a QR code, so that families could download the application on their smartphone, scan the code, and have lessons available at home to extend the learning beyond the library program hours.
"Tri-County students were really the driving force behind this project, said Michelle Tilden, Early Education Vocational Instructor at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School. "We were there to provide support as needed, but they were able to use their prior knowledge, research skills, collaboration techniques, creative thinking and personal investment to come up with a solid educational solution that the members in our community had asked for and needed."
Opportunities presented by communities offer Tri-County students valuable real-world experience that plays a part in their career-focused technical education. Students are able to see the relevance of their academic and career skills that they learn in school and use these skills throughout their careers.
Tri-County RVTHS, located at 147 Pond Street in Franklin, is a recipient of the High Schools That Work Gold Achievement Award and serves the communities of Franklin, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleborough, Plainville, Seekonk, Sherborn, Walpole, and Wrentham.