It’s a long way from the North Pole and his industrious elves, but Santa Claus seems to have found some help from a group of students at Elmira District Secondary School. Deep within the walls of the school there are 36 students in Grades 11 and 12 working away to make wooden toys for the Woolwich Community Services annual Christmas goodwill program, which collects non-perishable food, clothing, and toys for local families.
It is the second year the class has done this. Construction technology teacher Alex Derma said participation has many benefits for both the students and the community.
“A lot of the toys are pretty simple, like this cup-and-ball” he explains, picking up the nearly completed toy made by one of his Grade 12 students. “But it teaches them the basic skills like using a lathe, as well as some assembly skills. I tell them they have to make sure it is as good as it can be, almost like it was a store-bought toy.”
Those skills are on display in the classroom as students operate sanders, lathes, band saws and the drill press to complete their toys.
“Making the propeller is the most difficult,” said Grade 11 student Brad Hoffman after smoothing the wood out on the lathe. He is making a toy whirligig completely out of wood. “I couldn’t find one at a store so I have to make it all on my own. The hardest part is making it spin to make it go up in the air.”
Derma said the students were not overly excited when they first heard about the project, but now that they are into it, they are enjoying it. The only requirement is that the toys are all made of wood.
The class has been working on their toys for about two weeks now, and spent two days in the library doing research on the type of toy they might like to build and how they wanted to build it. They also spent some time researching charities around the world to get a better sense of what they do and who they help.
They also considered donating the toys to a larger charity such as Sick Kids Hospital, but after discussing the fact that the hospital probably has a lot more money and assistance than local charities like the WCS, they decided to go the local route.
“It makes you feel good knowing it will go to a local kid and that you’re helping people out,” said Grade 11 student Adam Racine, who is making a couple of wooden toy trucks, adding that using the band saw to cut the wood was the most difficult part of the process because of how much time and care it required to cut the wood properly.
The class has a field trip scheduled for Dec. 13 when they will deliver their completed toys to Lions Hall to be included in the WCS Christmas hampers.
“It’s their own project; they do it from start to finish so that way when they donate the toy, they feel like they have done it all, because they have. And they do all their own problem-solving. It’s been a really good project,” said Derma.