Cabinetmakers Mentor Grade Six Students

So this is what i’ve been consumed with for the last few days … it’s off to the editor!

I’ve learned a lot about multiple intelligences and experiential education.


Grade six students from Voyageur Memorial School accompanied by their teacher, Van Ferrier, spent the afternoon of Monday, April 8 practicing their arithmetic skills at a cabinetmaking shop, where a vocational program is offered by Sabtuan Adult Educational Services.

“When Van asked if he could bring his grade six students to the shop and make something out of wood, my first reaction was that it was a fabulous idea,” said cabinetmaking instructor, Andy Anderson.

Both teachers agreed that sketching a design and applying dimensions and measurements to a solid object would reinforce planning, problem solving and the application of the principles of mathematics. It would also provide students with the new skillset of working with wood.

Working in the trades is something familiar to Ferrier. Before embarking on his teaching career, he worked in carpentry.

“I noticed how much basic math was involved, so when I became a teacher I thought carpentry would be a fun way to show students how to apply their understanding of math.”

Ferrier graduated with a Bachelor of Education with a focus on aboriginal education, from Queen’s University, a program that emphasises experiential education. Ferrier is eager to put these educational principles into practice, which he feels would benefit the students.

“Using these principles, students are given the opportunity to experience education through multiple intelligences,” Ferrier explained.

The theory of multiple intelligences distinguishes learning styles, offering that some students learn best by watching, some by listening and others by feel and touch. With this in mind, Ferrier introduced tactile manipulation in his classroom, using objects such as blocks that students can handle.

“With all the research these days about multiple intelligences, auditory, musical, visual, and kinesthetic, etc., experiential education offers students a diversity of experiences to help connect with the material the way that makes the most sense for them,” Ferrier said.

By delivering lessons that use all of the intelligences, the chances of success in a learning environment are greater, and it is a strategy, he believes, that will help keep students engaged in school.

“Experiential education can also be advantageous in a community where English is a second language, and where there is a rich oral tradition. It is a great way for students who do not yet have strong reading and writing skills to help improve academic performance in these areas,” Ferrier added.

When Anderson asked his cabinetmaking students what they thought of the idea, they wholeheartedly endorsed it and were anxious to get started.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to utilize the skills they have learned and pass them on to the next generation,” Anderson added.

Ferrier agreed that this teaching method of passing skills to the next generation would work in his classroom. On a recent field trip to Murray’s Lodge, a Traditional Cree Fishing & Chisheinuu Chiskutamaachewin Project, where elders pass on their knowledge, values and wisdom to the youth of the community, Ferrier had the chance to observe the one-on-one teaching of skills by elders.

In preparation for this project, Anderson’s cabinetmaking students built prototypes for the math students to study as models. When Anderson asked his students what they would like to build with their young protégés, the suggestions ranged from birdhouses, jewelry boxes, and doll houses, to boats, slingshots, and swords.

“Of course, I vetoed the weapons,” Anderson said.

When Ferrier’s students arrived in the shop classroom, Anderson gave a brief rundown of safety procedures and teamed up each student with a mentor.

The students then leafed through woodworking manuals to choose a design for their creations. Then under the supervision of their mentors, with rulers and pencils, they calculated measurements and drew up plans.

Before heading into the shop, each student was issued safety glasses and earplugs.

“The grade 6 students will not operate machinery,” Anderson emphasized, “but they will be instrumental in the design and fabrication of their project from start to finish.”

This project will last about 3 weeks averaging 1 hour a day, 4 days a week (approximately 12 hours total).

“Everyone is excited about it,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we can do this again with other classes.”


2 thoughts on “Cabinetmakers Mentor Grade Six Students

  1. Are the mentors Andy’s students? It seems like it is really a great opportunity for HIS students as well as they are able to help teach the younger students what they have been taught.

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