December 01, 2021
ITEEA member Don Whitman, in collaboration with three other Technology Education Teachers, is heading up a community collaboration event. The Technology Education Department at Normal Community High School in Normal Illinois collaborated on a one-of-a-kind holiday display for auction at the local charity organization: The Baby Fold’s 28th annual Festival of Trees. Supported by a $5000 grant, over 300 Technology Education students designed ornaments to decorate a “rustic-themed” Christmas tree to help support the local children’s agency.
The Festival of Trees is the Baby Fold’s largest fundraiser of the year. The event’s proceeds help support over 1200 families annually. Students from 16 Technology Education classes worked on different planning, design, and construction stages of the project. Course curriculum determined each classes’ role in the project — Metal Working students made metal ornaments, Woodworking students made handmade wooden cut-out ornaments, Engineering classes 3D printed decorations.
STEM Capstone students developed the project’s overall theme.
Students constructed the ornaments using machinery ranging from tools like a CNC plasma torch and CNC router to 3-D printers and laser cutters purchased with the $5000 grant money. The grant allowed the Technology Education Department to challenge students to work together with unfamiliar technology. Beyond collaboration and content-area skills, the teachers help students learn a life lesson.
Other lessons came in the form of the students’ unique challenges during the design process. Students had to redesign a few times and troubleshoot things that weren’t working. Despite some “hiccups' ' caused by a delay in receiving the new equipment and “the learning curve” in using it — the Festival of Tree’s donation is the department’s largest-scale collaboration and community service project.
The event typically generates more than $200,000 a year with over 650 auction items run by nearly 500 volunteers. “It’s become such a good tradition in central Illinois that we try to go all out every year,” the FOT organizers stated, “and just make it the best event we can make it.”
This year the Normal Community High School Technology Education Department’s decorated tree won 2nd place in the 7’ tree category with 113 other 7’ trees available for auction and sold for $670.00.
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