July 11, 2017

Makers day for children unleashed creativity in construction

Story and photos by Russ Grayson, June 2017

WHAT DO YOU DO with a lot of old cardboard boxes, a mob of children and a box of Make-Do kits? Well, obviously, you fabricate things.

And that is just what the Eco Heroes Club for 5 to 11 years olds did in the classroom-on-the-commons at Randwick Community Centre on a Saturday late in the Autumn of this year.

Activity leader, Julian Lee, started by demonstrating how to use the cutters and screws that are part of the Make-Do kit, then children and adults worked together to manifest in old cardboard-once-boxes the vision in the children's' minds. Make-do kits contain the screws and tools needed for cardboard construction.

The classroom — an energy efficient building that includes reused building materials and that was designed by permaculture-trained architect, Terry Bail (Archology) — was soon covered in large cardboard panels and the buzz of creative conversation as child and adult worked out how to construct their creations. A little over a couple hours later the wild and imaginative creations were finished. Children took turns to explain what they had built.

The afternoon engaged the imagination of child and parent, taught the principles of shaping and constructing something and tool use. It amply demonstrated how play and enjoyment are valid learning tools.

The people

The activity was led by Julian Lee. Julian has the Brainchild Academy and introduces children to skills as diverse as this day's construction activity and basic electronics using electronic assembly kits to bring an understanding of basic science and how things work in the world. Trained in science and science communication, some years ago Julian studied entrepreneurialism and and started the hybrid-community-supported-agriculture organic food box scheme, Sydney Food Connect, now Ooooby, which linked city eaters with Sydney-region small scale farmers.

Julian also works on Randwick Council's basic science for schools program organised by council sustainability educator, Fiona Campbell, and run at the community centre. Based around water, solar energy, seeds and circuits, the lessons were devised by Fiona, retired teacher Jane Mowbray, who is also a horticultural educator, and Mary Bell, an educational specialist who used to manage the landcare education program for schools at Calmsley Hill City Farm, education programs at the National Plantbank and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Local landscape designer and horticultural educator, the permaculture-trained Emma Daniell, also teaches in the schools' program at the community centre.

Eco Heroes Club has proven popular over its more than five years at the Randwick Community Centre. Coming together on the third Sunday afternoon of the month, the purpose of the Club is to engage childrens' imaginations, minds and hands in creating a sense of wonder, inquiry and knowledge about how the world works. It is a program of Randwick Council's sustainability unit, which is based at the community centre. 

Comment on this