Grade 9 Tech students get a shop of their own at WDHS
By ROB FAULKNER
When Waterdown District High School underwent a major expansion in 2014, the tech staff had a vision for their section inside the new wing: it would include a shop dedicated to the Grade 9 tech program.
Until that point, Grade 9 students had been working in a limited shop on a mezzanine, looking from above as more senior students handled the heavy tools in the auto shop. Staff didn’t love that dynamic – and wanted Grade 9 students to get a true taste of what tech is about.
“Grade 9 is where it all begins,” explains Bill McEwen, tech department head. “You can have a great tech experience or you can decide you never want to take it again.”
Now, the Grade 9 shop is unique for being designed specifically with Grade 9 students in mind: a fully equipped shop for light woodworking, high-end computing lab for use of computer assisted design and graphic work, even space for a CNC carver that students use to create intricate designs on their projects.
Drop by and you will see Grade 9 tech program teacher Craig Ramsden using a demonstration-based style of teaching to explain safety, design, problem-solving – all done through a project like making a wooden boomerang. He teaches three Grade 9 tech classes per semester.
Ramsden says having a dedicated space, and teacher, for Grade 9 tech adds to the consistency as students advance. “They all build the same skills,” he said, “and this is the front line for those skills that are easily transferrable to every tech class.”
Projects include designing the fins, body, decals and recovery systems for a CO2-propelled two-stage rocket; constructing various styles of boomerangs while learning about flight, lift and drag; learning about computer assisted 3D design; making a movie trailer that tells the story of their rocket project, culminating in the testing of the rockets outside.
“They fire their rockets on the football field and it’s a big day,” said Ramsden, explaining that the rockets go 300 feet high before a second CO2 charge blows the nose cone off for the descent. Each rocket is unique, wrapped in a design students came up with in Photoshop.
The Grade 9 course is called Exploring Technologies for a reason. Students cover everything from design to construction, transportation to careers. They’re evaluated on the same learning skills and work habits as any other course: responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative and self-regulation. For the WDHS Grade 8 night, there is even a hands-on project for incoming students, who able to build and take home a pencil holder.
“I like it a lot because it’s hands on and (Mr. Ramsden) shows you what to do instead of just telling you what to do,” said Grade 9 student Mason Grenier. “For the rockets, we learned how to use the mitre saw and the drill press. We will learn how to use the band saw for boomerangs and it will be fun learning to use new tools.”