Grade 5’s Canstruction designs to fight poverty

STEM project at Havergal College builds social awareness

The halls of Havergal College were abuzz with Grade 5 students stacking cans, coordinating architectural feats and planning engineering marvels.

Sophie Manning and Lilly Simmons were among them, putting together cans of green beans, kidney beans and crushed tomatoes to form a crayon box on Feb. 27. Their group was one of six at the school putting together structures based on themes of their choice with a STEM focus.

“Draw Away Hunger” was their concept.

It was all part of a social justice awareness project at the school to help decrease hunger and fight poverty right in their North Toronto community.

“We’re helping other people,” 10-year-old Lilly said. The project made her aware of the hunger faced by some local people, she said.

In the fall, art teacher Rosa Mastri reached out to non-profit design and build competition, Canstruction, to create structures out of unopened cans and packaged food items that will be donated to the North York Harvest Food Bank.

It’s the second time the school has taken part in Canstruction. Ten years ago, Mastri’s Grade 4 class built a castle out of canned goods. This time around, Masti and faculty colleague Helen Carayannis pitched a more ambitious project to the students, and they bought in right away.

WORKING TOGETHER: Sophie Manning, right, and Lilly Simmons, second from right, join their team, “Draw Away Hunger.”

“There are a lot of things the students have learned. They’ve learned how to work together, mathematics, engineers,” she said. “Ultimately, Miss Carayannis and I have been spearheading this to have the girls get involved with the contribution to service.”

Supporting the initiative, and providing ample design tips, is Diamond Schmitt and Peter’s No Frills Toronto. The latter provided the canned goods which students had to fundraise to purchase.

It was also very serendipitous, as the lead for Canstruction Toronto, Jenna Chapman is the Training and Programs Coordinator at Diamond Schmitt Architects – the same firm that designed Havergal’s expansion.

“It was their initiative too. It was nice to see their excitement,” Chapman said, as Diamond Schmitt visited the school.

Mastri also acknowledged the serendipity factor.

“It became a nice tight circle of people who were working with the same agenda and working for a similar cause,” she said.

Garth Nichols, vice-principal of student engagement and experiential development, was enthused by the involvement the students had, adding they have been asking plenty of questions.

“Curiosity is a strong level of engagement,” he said. “This is truly inter-disciplinary learning. It’s beyond the classroom. It’s in terms of who they are and what they stand for.”

After the awards are given to each group, the students will disassemble the structures and take the canned goods to the food bank.

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