Workshop method

Local company’s construction workshop opens up ‘endless opportunities’ for school children in Orkney


An Orkney construction company has brought construction and engineering to life for local primary school pupils through a hands-on, hands-on workshop.

Orkney Builders are currently carrying out a £1,584,000 nursery extension to Glaitness Primary School.

With work undertaken just 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.

Following the teacher’s idea, sector-led and classroom-based workshops were held at the school through collaborative work with Colin Nisbet, Orkney Education Support Manager for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Callum Murdoch, contracts manager at Orkney Builders.

The workshops involved students using KAPLA wooden building blocks and MakeDo cardboard toolboxes that allowed them to explore building towers through play, as well as creating/copying designs and raising others. small-scale challenges.

Colin led an introductory session using MakeDo cardboard construction tools, which allowed students to gain experience using a saw and screwdriver. Students were also challenged to plan and design a three-dimensional animal with at least one moving part.

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

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

“One of my particular goals was to try to increase engagement and motivation for literacy. This project has opened up endless possibilities for speaking, listening and writing lessons, including: imaginative newspaper articles about builders finding gold on new construction, thank-you letters for visiting professionals , an account of the experience of one of the visitors, the writing of the plans for our very own junk food-style classroom haunt, five characterization points based on their animal creations and finally, imaginative stories written during the time free of the pupils and based only on the animal that they made using the tools. This was probably the biggest win for us, as two incredibly reluctant writers were asking to go write another page of their book in their spare time. This resulted in a 13-page story with a clear beginning, middle, and end in the life of “Barry the Dragon” (Barry has become something of a school celebrity!).

To continue to build positive links between the school and Orkney Builders, students visit the site in term three to see how the new build is progressing and the class is 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 talk to students about what we do as builders. We discussed the various projects we have done around Orkney, the work in progress within the school itself and the importance of health and safety in what we do on a daily basis. We did a hands-on workshop where students used KAPLA blocks to build models of bridges, buildings and even St Magnus Cathedral.

“Students had to think about the tools they would use if they were real builders and the techniques that would be needed to make sure their structures could stand. All of these discussions and activities were undertaken with great enthusiasm, with fantastic innovation and creativity on the part of the students. The sessions highlighted the importance of developing student skills and we hope this sparked an interest in the construction industry among these future builders and engineers!