Local firm’s construction workshop opens ‘endless opportunities’ for Orkney schoolkids

AN Orkney construction firm has brought building and engineering ‘to life’ for local primary school pupils through a practical, hands-on workshop.

Orkney Builders is currently delivering a £1,584,000 nursery expansion at Glaitness Primary School.

With works being undertaken right outside the school’s primary 4 classroom, teacher Paige Archibald spotted the opportunity to turn the ‘potentially noisy distraction’ into a teaching and learning experience.

As a result of the teacher’s idea, sector-led and class input workshops were held at the school thanks to collaborative working with Colin Nisbet, Orkney’s education support officer for Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM); and Callum Murdoch, Orkney Builders’ contracts manager.

The workshops involved pupils using KAPLA wooden blocks for building and MakeDo cardboard toolkits which allowing them to explore through play building towers, as well as creating/copying designs and undertaking other small-scale challenges.

Colin ran an introductory session using MakeDo cardboard construction tools, which allowed the pupils to gain experience in using a saw and screwdriver. The pupils were also set a challenge to plan and design a three-dimensional animal with at least one moving part.

They then moved on to building a classroom den/reading area, with the class working together to design and build it – including those who the school said are ‘often more reluctant’ to engage in group activities.

Paige Archibald said, “The project and series of class inputs provided a great stimulus for a variety of cross curricular followup tasks which the pupils continued to immerse themselves in. With literacy (particularly writing), numeracy and STEM all mentioned within the Glaitness School Improvement Plan for 2021/22, this project was an innovative way to develop school improvement priorities using STEM as a rich context for learning.

“A particular focus of mine was to try and increase engagement and motivation towards literacy. This project opened up endless opportunities for both talking and listening and writing lessons, including: imaginative newspaper articles about the builders discovering gold during the new build, thank you letters for visiting professionals, a recount of the experience of one of the visitors, drawing up plans for our own junk -modelled classroom den, five points of characterisation based around their animal creations and finally, imaginative stories written in pupils’ free time based solely on the animal they made using the tools. This was probably the biggest win for us, as two incredibly reluctant writers were asking to go and write another page of their book during their own free time. This resulted in a 13-page story with a clear beginning, middle and end to the life of ‘Barry the Dragon’ (Barry became somewhat of a school celebrity!).”

To continue to build positive links between the school and Orkney Builders, pupils are going for a site visit in term 3 to see how the new build is progressing and the class are already planning their next STEM challenge using their own MakeDo and KAPLA sets.

Callum Murdoch added, “Orkney Builders were proud to have sent representatives to primary 4 to speak to the pupils about what we do as builders. We discussed the different projects we have carried out around Orkney, the works being carried out within the school itself and the importance of Health and Safety in what we do every day. We carried out a practical workshop where the pupils used KAPLA blocks to construct models of bridges, buildings and even the St Magnus Cathedral.

“Pupils had to consider what tools they would use if they were actual builders and considered the techniques that would be required to ensure their structures could stand up. All of these discussions and activities were undertaken with great enthusiasm, with some fantastic innovation and creativity shown by the pupils. The sessions highlighted the importance of developing the skills of the pupils and we are hopeful that it has sparked an interest in the construction industry, within these future builders and engineers!”