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Rewarding Community Concrete Project

Thursday, 10 January 2019  
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Students from Canterbury’s Rolleston College have gained valuable, hands-on experience of working with concrete in a collaborative community project involving both Christchurch Ready Mix Concrete and absolute driveways.

About 90 Year 9 students were involved in the two-day project, which entailed about 12.5 cubic metres of concrete being formed into decorative paths, explains Christchurch Ready Mix Concrete concrete manager Richard Sands.

“The kids were doing a sustainability project and it was basically a garden area that had numerous paths and features that they wanted to concrete and decorate,” he says.

“Teacher Bronwyn Hoy approached us, and we were happy to be involved, and also recommended getting a placer onboard due to the boxing and different curves and falls. So, we approached the New Zealand Concrete Contractors’ Association for expressions of interest and Brett Armitage of Absolute Driveways said his company was willing to help.

“It was absolutely fantastic to see kids getting involved in concrete -- to do it in real life -- there was buy-in from everyone. For me, it was also the fact that we could give something back to the community.”

Ms Hoy says the stimulus for the project was the Year 9 students indicating they wanted to base their “Connected” class learnings on the “sustainability” theme around planning and building a school garden.

“The project began by students attending workshops on a range of topics including soil and water testing, understanding ecosystems, insect habitats and crop rotation,” says Ms Hoy.

“From there they learnt how to measure the area of the ground that was designated for the garden and to develop scaled drawings of the area. This involved working out ratios which they then used to build scaled models of the plans using popsicle sticks.

“The construction phase saw the students spend a lot of time in the technology area learning how to pull apart pallets and reconstruct them according to their scaled models. Students learnt how to use drills and saws and a wide range of other equipment which was a great learning experience for them.

“3D printers were also used to make stencils to cast shapes into the central concrete structure. These were designs that represent the four whanau groups of the college -- Kōanga (spring), Ngahuru (autumn), Rāumati (summer) and Hōtoke (winter).”

Additionally, Ms Hoy says students were invited to paint small rocks which were embedded into one path to signify the beginnings of the garden and their first year at Rolleston College.

“Local Halswell Quarry rock was embed in one of the concrete paths to form the shape of an eel to represent the significance of Lake Ellesmere to our region and our local Taumutu marae.”

Student Abbey Henderson describes the project as an “experience of a lifetime”.

“My friends and I had so much fun learning how concrete is laid and how people use concrete in ways that I didn’t think was possible,” says Ms Henderson.

“We had a great day out of class learning about concrete placing and finishing and learning basic skills and techniques that we can transfer into other aspects of our lives.”

Fellow student Liam Knowles adds: “It was really awesome to work with Christchurch Ready Mix and Absolute Driveways. I liked getting down on our hands and knees to smooth the concrete out and getting our hands dirty. It was fun to carry full loads of concrete to pour the paths.”

Mr Sands says another positive of the project, which featured prominent involvement from Christchurch Ready Mix Concrete southern region operations supervisor Steve Booth, was the collaboration between the two different industry sectors.

“It was great to have everyone working on the same team to help the kids with their project and at the same time promote the product and industry.”