Empowering the Future:

Activa Partners with Groh Public School for a Unique Community Project

In an exciting partnership between Activa and Groh Public School in Kitchener, two classes of Grade 7 students set out on an adventure: re-designing our very own “Harvest Park” community from the ground up. Students were divided up into small groups and were tasked with playing the role of either a city planner or the developer. Their mission? To conceptualize a community design that considers demographics, affordability, sustainability, and placemaking, all while adhering to a set budget.

Over the upcoming months, these students will not only collaborate regularly but also engage with seasoned professionals. Through these interactions, they’ll gain invaluable insights into the multifaceted world of community planning. Get ready to witness the growth of tomorrow’s urban visionaries as they shape the future of Harvest Park!

session one: a vision takes root

The first session was an exciting beginning to this project. Geoff McMurdo, Activa’s Chief Administrative Officer, shared his insights on community development and encouraged the students to think creatively. Christine Michaud from the City of Kitchener was also in attendance to shed light on the city’s perspective and emphasize the importance of community-driven initiatives.

session two: planning the dream

The second session brought the students face-to-face with real-world urban planning professionals. Janine Oosterveld, from the City of Kitchener, and Pierre Chauvin, from MHBC, guided the students through the intricacies of designing a functional community.

session three: from concept to reality

The third session took the project to new heights as Andrew (AJ) Vlcek, an architect from Martin Simmons Sweers, shared the nuances of architectural design with the budding designers. The students in the role as “developer” had begun using TinkerCAD to conceptualize their home designs. One group had even printed their first 3D home! The “city planners” have begun mapping out the roadways, parks, trails and amenities they will bring to this new community.

session four: design and branding exploration

The fourth session was led by Jessica Flanagan, Marketing Manager at Activa, who emphasized the importance of branding and marketing a community. The students actively crafted unique community brands and developed compelling sell sheets, infusing entrepreneurial spirit into their imaginative planning. Then, Rene Romero, Architectural Designer at Activa, assisted the kids with their TinkerCAD designs, helping them shape their visions of homes, apartments and amenities they envisioned for the community.

session five: a journey through the model homes

In the fifth session, Jessica Flanagan, Marketing Manager at Activa, and Tasha Kauk, Site Coordinator for Activa’s Harvest Park Community, took the students on a tour of the new model homes in Harvest Park, where they had the opportunity to ask questions and gain real-world insights into the intricacies of residential development.

session six: sowing seeds of sustainability

Guiding the sixth session was Michael Drescher, Associate Professor, School of Planning at University of Waterloo, as he enlightened the students on sustainable practices within residential developments. From transit solutions to greenspaces and water conservation, the students brainstormed innovative ideas to infuse eco-friendly initiatives into their communities. Some even drew inspiration from pioneering global examples, fostering a commitment to environmentally conscious urban planning.

session seven: joyful placemaking

The seventh session, led by Paul Kalbfleisch, Consultant and Co-Author of the JOY Experiments, emphasized the art of placemaking. The students delved into the significance of creating spaces filled with joy within a community. From envisioning community art installations to designing engaging play spaces, the emphasis was on dreaming big. One standout idea involved a group creating a musical instrument playground, complete with coding that actually brings the 3D printed design to life.

The students’ innovative ideas captured the attention of CTV, earning them a well-deserved spot on the 6pm news that evening. Check out the news article here >> https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/grade-7-students-reinvent-new-kitchener-suburb-for-class-project-1.6692779 

the finale: cultivating tomorrow’s visionaries

To wrap up this exciting project, the Grade 7 students had the opportunity to present their finished projects to Kitchener City Council at City Hall. Five groups took stage to walk our City Councillors through their community plans – from their visions for the community, suggested building types, amenities and community features and placemaking efforts to be included. Each group also brought along their mock 3D printed communities, bringing their plans to life for Council to see firsthand.

To say we are proud of what these students have accomplished over the last 6 months is an understatement! We can’t wait to see what these students accomplish and how they continue to shape and drive innovation in the future of community development!