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Construction club promotes social connection

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St. Francis de Sales' student group encourages socialization and problem-solving through play
By Josh Tng

Photo caption: Students from St. Francis de Sales Elementary School work together to build structures during construction club. They meet twice a week with Grade 1 teacher Lara Martini. The club offers a chance for the students to "learn from each other and respond to teacher modeling," said Martini. (Lara Martini / Special to The B.C. Catholic)
A tower of plastic joints, pipes, and marbles precariously stands in the middle of the room, placed there by a proud student.
“How do you keep it from falling down when it gets really tall?” asked Ewan, a kindergarten student at St. Francis de Sales Elementary. “Wait! Don’t tell me! I think I can try something!”
Ewan and more than 40 other students gather in the school library twice a week for construction club, where the school creates “a safe place for modelling and mentoring social communication for many of our students with diverse needs,” said Grade 1 teacher and club organizer Lara Martini.
“We have students in the school with anxiety, autism, FASD, Cerebral Palsy, leukemia, hemophilia, neurological disorders, coordination disorders … it was hard to find a way to meet all their needs at different levels.”
The idea for the construction club sprouted when one of the parents suggested a Lego club. “The idea was born!” Martini said.
The club quickly offered an opportunity for children with various levels of social skills to play together. “This is the third year we have been doing it, and in all that time I have only had one or two moments where children needed direct behaviour support from an adult,” she said. “They learn from each other and respond to teacher modeling beautifully!”
The children also enjoy the simple act of building things. “I like to make new friends, and there are always new things to play with,” said Angelina, a Grade 6 student.
“Construction club is fun, and we like building things,” said Grade 4 students Isabelle and Viviana.
Giorgio in Grade 3 agreed the club activities were enjoyable, and they also get students’ brains working. “It takes all my thinking.”
Martini loves the simple yet effective lessons the children learn from the club. “It is my absolute favourite thing about my job here right now,” she said. “It is amazing to me after teaching for 20 years that so much learning is happening spontaneously, and that it doesn’t feel like work for anyone who participates – teachers or students!”

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