Sometimes a Chair Isn’t Just a Chair

Everyone has seen them. Those grey metal stacking chairs that fill countless school gyms and auditoriums during assemblies, concerts and parent meetings. But what if they weren’t a dull grey? What if some enterprising young students transformed them into an opportunity to grow and learn more about the possibilities around them? 

That’s exactly what is happening at Dalkeith Elementary School in Ville d’Anjou, with the support of teachers Sandra Trevisonno, Patrizia Spatola, Patty Vlahakis and Diana Vanin, as well as principal, John Wright.

Dalkeith students hard at work

Dalkeith students hard at work

But let’s go back a step or two. During the 2013-2014 school year, Sandra––a Cycle Three math and resource teacher––offered a “Young Entrepreneur” extra-curricular activity for her students, and about a dozen answered her call. The kids themselves decided to create and sell math-inspired board games that would help other students improve their ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Their product was such a hit with the school community that they sold all their games. They used the proceeds to set up a loom-bracelet table at the school’s year-end carnival where any student could make a bracelet for free.

“A company doesn’t just exist. There are steps you need to take.”

This year, the entrepreneurship club learned that the school was replacing its old metal chairs with new folding ones. That set them thinking about the fate of the old chairs and how they could be turned into an entrepreneurial opportunity. Soon the students had plans to paint the chairs with bright colours and themed designs. Some would have letters, others numbers and still others sports-, arts-, or science-related motifs. The students would prepare samples, distribute order forms and then custom-paint the chairs to order. All the costs of paint, acetate stencils and other supplies would be covered in the price of the chairs. There would be no need for funding from the school.

Dalkeith Chairs-article Before any of that could happen, however, Sandra reminded the students that they had to write a letter to the principal asking for permission to use the chairs. “They also had to come up with a clear and simple form for parents that would make order-processing easy and efficient,” she notes. (Their first attempt was too complicated.)

“These activities are helping the students learn more about the world and how it works,” she adds.  “A company doesn’t just exist. There are steps you need to take and there’s a lot of hard work you have to put into it.”

Life lessons that stick

Dalkeith girl painting chair-articleThe students are also gaining confidence in their abilities and learning how to support each other through teamwork. “In math class, we can choose to work together or not,” says Sandra. “The students have that option. With these projects, they need to work together as a team. Sometimes you agree and everything’s fine, but other times, you don’t necessarily agree, but you need to respect the other person.”

That self-assurance won’t hurt at all when these same students have choices to make about academic and career paths. A child who may have thought herself weak in math can say, “Hey, I was pretty good at calculating the materials we used for our project.”  Sometimes the resources we need are right in front of us. Just like those old chairs.

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