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Pinkham pupils have a playdate with their parents

March 9, 2023 News Story
WSD - Pinkham - Young Designers

Pinkham School students are making some surprisingly fun new playmates: their parents.  

Pinkham is one of four WSD schools participating in Young Designers at Work and Play, a new project that sees early-years students and their families coming together to invent, design, create, share and learn through STEAM-powered play.

Fifteen WSD families will participate in eight sessions, once per week. The sessions, which run from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and include a hot meal, are led by STEAM support teachers Adam Charbonneau and Murray Mandzuk.

“We wanted to create a program where we’re able to build bridges between the school, the community and the experiences that happen within the school, specifically STEAM experiences and exploration,” said Charbonneau, who is currently leading the sessions at Pinkham.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity to parents and their children to collaborate and communicate and to practise critical and creative thinking skills in a program that was after school. We also wanted to create a really positive culture around STEAM, play-based learning, and the exploration of materials, tools and experiences.”

Mandzuk is currently leading Young Designers sessions at Mulvey School. After the sessions are completed at Pinkham and Mulvey, Charbonneau will move onto Rockwood School, while Mandzuk will go to King Edward School.  

The children and their caregivers communicate and collaborate to complete design challenges that are derived from a different storybook each week.

“The second week we read The Three Hunters, an Indigenous spin on The Three Little Pigs. For that challenge they built a small little shelter. Then we brought in a fan to see if it could stand up to wind. The next week was making bracelets, this week is making a container, next week will be making a clay creature and the following week we’ll be working with robots.”

The families are allowed to take the storybooks and their projects home, while the building materials stay in the schools for future play-based learning projects.  

While the design challenge is the main component of the project, the first 45 minutes of each session is dedicated to free play.

“Different pieces are put out to lead into the next week,” Charbonneau said. “Last week I put a bunch of cardboard out along with Makedo, which are cardboard construction tools. I put those out because this week they’re going to be building containers out of cardboard. It’s a little introduction, a little hint.”

“Exploration is key. When they’re not given a set task, it’s a chance for experimentation and exploration. It’s a chance for students to play around and see what they like.”

Suadi Lidan is attending the Pinkham sessions with her son and his cousin. She said she loves the “interactive” aspect of the program.  

“They really enjoy it and it’s nice to do the activities with them. It’s a bonding experience,” Lidan said.

“You also learn what kind of toys and activities they gravitate towards. It turns out my son loves Lego and this program made me get him a Lego set. I didn’t know he was interested until I saw him playing with it. He loves building.”

Azizur Rahman is participating in the Pinkham sessions with his seven-year-old son Fahim. He said Fahim is a little on the shy side and Young Designers is encouraging his son to engage more socially.  

“It’s an interesting program and a great opportunity to learn something new and improve my child’s social skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and build his communication skills,” Rahman said.

Brittany Smith has four daughters involved in the project, including Jolene who is in Grade 2.

“I really like doing this because you get to use your imagination,” Jolene said. “But you do have to clean up when it’s time.”

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