Dig In Event at Hamilton Middle School

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Fifth-graders at Hamilton Middle School have a unique project opportunity this year with a chance to have a lasting impact on the school. Throughout the year, students are working on designs to renovate the school’s courtyard areas — with a chance that their design is used at the school.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, the school brought local professionals in to teach students about 15 different aspects of construction — architecture, administration, safety, landscape/excavating, plumbing, schematic drawings, general contracting, marketing, HVAC, carpentry, finishing, electrical, construction technology and industrial automation.

“Our fifth-graders are all working on a project-based learning project around redesigning our courtyards to make them intentional learning spaces,” said Ashley Meyer, career coach and experiential learning coordinator. “This day is meant to expose them to the different areas of construction, the different trades. We want them to be exposed to that so they can look at different careers, but also to see how that particular trade impacts their courtyard project.”

At the end of the school year, student groups will present their courtyard ideas and the top idea will be brought to life.

“Our students will all be pitching out (idea) in April,” Meyer said. “They’ll have a panel of judges and the winning idea actually gets implemented. Hopefully by the time they leave this building, they’ll have gotten to use that space that they created as fifth-graders, which is pretty cool.”

Meyer said that having local professionals come in and demonstrate aspects of their prospective projects gives students a better perspective of what they’re planning.

“It gives them a better understanding of what it is they’re trying to do in the courtyard space,” she said. “What goes into it, the work and what they have to think about as they go through it. Somebody can tell them all day, but until they see it and do it and interact with professionals... it can really set a kid up for success if they see how it fits to the real world.”

Meyer said that each grade in the middle school is working on a project-based learning initiative focused on a career pathway. For example, the sixth-grade classrooms are focused on business and will be visiting area businesses this year, while eighth-graders are focusing on manufacturing.

Industry professionals came from GMB Architecture and Engineering, Buist Electric, Town and Country Group, Sobie Company, HighPoint Electric, River City Mechanical, Owen-Ames-Kimball, Pleune Services, Elzing & Volkers, Feyen Zylstra, Pioneer Construction and Hardner and Warner. Amy Pierce-Danders, Director of Workforce Development at Associated Builders & Contractors - Western Michigan Chapter, helped to organize the event.

“This event is not possible without the 104 businesses professionals here today,” Meyer said. “We’re super thankful for the willingness of our community partners to jump on board and make this come alive for our kids.”