June 30, 2014

Learning by doing is a proven method to engage the imagination and capture the interest of youngsters – and never was that more true than at the first ever interactive DPR “School of Construction” event in Phoenix June 18th.

Nearly 100 grade school students from two local at-risk youth programs that DPR supports – ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth and Future for Kids – assisted by 42 volunteers from DPR and the two youth programs added an extra buzz of energy and excitement to the already bustling Phoenix office. The students journeyed to DPR’s office from Chandler and Scottsdale, Ariz. on the field trip to learn about design, construction, and jobsite safety as well as construction industry career opportunities, all while helping to create four unique doghouses that were donated to a local animal shelter.

The School of Construction event was the brainchild of DPR project manager Tim Hyde, who was inspired by a similar event to create a similar hands-on experience for youngsters to learn about the construction process. Over the past several months, a 12-person task force comprised of representatives from both youth organizations and DPR carefully planned out every detail of the afternoon event that was partially funded by the DPR Foundation.

Summer campers ready for a fun version of summer school.

DPR staff welcomed the children with an opening session that included an intro to DPR, stretch and flex time, a personal testimonial from DPR design professional Jose Garcia and group discussion about what lay ahead. Garcia shared his story of how hard work and dedication took him from humble beginnings similar to many of the children in attendance to a successful career as a design professional.

The students then divided into four groups and rotated through 20-minute sessions. Under the tutelage of DPR professionals using carefully thought-out lesson plans and interactive participation, the youngsters took the doghouse project from start to finish. At the first “snack and safety” station they learned about jobsite safety, including personal protective equipment, the importance of hydration and proper nutrition, the role of stretch and flex and even saw a scissor lift demo. The youth learned how to draw a rendering and designed their project at the next station, then moved on to create a mock-up of the doghouse at the third station using pre-cut wood to assemble it. The final station was to actually build the project, assisted by four volunteers.

The first lesson was on the importance of jobsite safety.

The campers used blue prints and balsa wood to create mock-ups of their dog houses.

The dog houses were built and decorated by the campers, then donated to an animal shelter.

A closing session wrapped up the day with a group discussion about the project. The children shared what they learned about construction and the keys to success of any project. During this session, some of the students’ descriptions of what the word “construction” now brought to mind – including “be safe,” “don’t give up,” “be prepared,” and “education” – offered insight into what the day had delivered.

Said sixth grade participant Kyndle, who now aspires to be an architectural engineer, “I think it was fun that we got to build things instead of just learning about it. It was very interactive – I liked that they showed us how to build a dog house and then we got to create it.”

Second-grader Eva had this to say: “They (DPR) were nice and helpful to us. I got to build a dog house. I want to be a builder and designer just like them.” Eva wore her hard hat to ICAN the very next day.

At the end of the day, all of the youth walked away with a hard hat to keep, new knowledge about how to complete a project and construction industry opportunities, and a sense of accomplishment at having helped create the doghouses that would benefit rescue dogs at the local Friends for Life Animal Rescue shelter.

The benefits of DPR’s first School of Construction event weren’t felt just by the students, either. In a plus/delta session immediately following it, volunteers offered their assessments and feedback that included many comments on the personal rewards of being part of such a unique learning opportunity. It was truly a day filled with inspiration on both sides of the aisle.

 “Through a remarkable collaborative effort from all three firms, we developed an incredible event that helped expose young children to the construction industry,” said Hyde. “Our ultimate goal was to inspire a strong work ethic and continued education for future career success.”