Designing a condo tower community is an unconventional but effective way to learn life’s lessons.
Just ask Sarah Jalal and her teammates, whose company, Skyworks, won a unique competition last week.
Grade 7 students at North York’s Ledbury Park Elementary and Middle School – southeast of Hwy. 401 and Bathurst Street – were put in teams to compete on a month-long project that saw them build livable and environmentally sustainable communities.
Students took on roles such as chief executive officer, marketing manager and construction supervisor.
The teams toured a condominium project and interviewed employees from Tridel, one of Canada’s largest residential developers.
From coming up with their concept, to writing a proposal to various stages of construction, the students were challenged to use teamwork, communication skills, creativity and integrative thinking, which blends intuition, reason and imagination to come up with solutions.
They also applied concepts from the I-Think Program, from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business.
Ledbury is the first Toronto elementary school to integrate the I-Think program, which poses a challenge and teaches students there is no single right answer, I-Think research associate Nogah Kornberg said.
Last Thursday, Nov. 15, the teams presented their communities, with Tridel executives Jim Ritchie and Danielle Feidler acting as judges.
First prize was awarded to Skyworks, which included Sarah and her teammates Cynthia Lee, Shelby Mohammed, Ana Tavares, Chelsea Newman, Jack Rasalan and Kyle Mcleod.
“Our project is about building a community that fits all the priorities of families and people,” Sarah said moments after Skyworks members collected their trophies.
“There’s a swimming pool (in the condo tower), there’s a gym, there’s good views, they can customize their height (which storey residents want to live on) and price. We tried to make it as green as possible.”
The journey to first place over four weeks was hard work as Skyworks members had to learn to work as a team to bring their vision to light, Sarah said.
“We didn’t really get along but now we’re, like, friends,” she said.
While winning was nice, it wasn’t the most important benefit of the competition, Sarah said.
“I’m really happy,” she said.
“(But) I didn’t care about winning. I cared about presenting it and having fun and getting along.”
After meeting the students and judging their projects, Ritchie said he was impressed with their design creativity and commitment to green development.
“I was shocked these kids are only in Grade 7. The projects were remarkably well done,” said Ritchie, senior vice-president at Tridel.
“They understand environmental issues at the forefront but they (also) understand community building.”
Teacher Claire Dos Santos said students learned many lessons during the exercise, such as problem solving, critical thinking and co-operative learning.
“Problem solving is the umbrella. Every time they had a problem, they had to solve it and work together to come to a decision,” she said.
“The actual product is less important than they process they went through.”
A top priority of the exercise was mastering communication skills, a critical skill in today’s digital world, Dos Santos said.
“In education, there is a big concern kids are not communicating,” she said.
“Communication is slowly disappearing and we have to do what we can in education and get kids to communicate verbally because texting is taking over the world.”
The project was a good life lesson for students, Eglinton-Lawrence public school Trustee Howard Goodman said.
“I think it helps them figure out how to work in teams and conquer challenges they’ve never encountered before, which is what they will encounter in life,” he said.
“The answers are not always at the back of the book. There is no book in life so you have to figure it out for yourself.”