The CDS Honey Project: Student Design with Real-World Application
Christina Chkarboul ’21
Over the past several weeks, the Grade 12 Communications Technology class, taught by Ms. Weening and Ms. Stefanescu, was tasked with designing and branding what would become the CDS Honey Project. The five students in the class had the unique opportunity to experience working with a real client, Mr. MacMillan, in creating labels for 50 honey jars filled with honey harvested in the School’s apiary, an initiative spearheaded by Mr. MacMillan.
“One of the goals that Ms. Stefanescu and I had for the course was to do authentic types of projects as much as possible,” Ms. Weening says, “We hoped to give students a chance to undertake projects that would have an audience besides the teachers.” This is especially critical in a design class, she points out, as seeing their designs be evaluated by a third party can have a significant impact on a student’s level of engagement and connection to their work.
Mr. MacMillan had approached the class for help in designing the label for the many jars of honey which he had collected from the CDS apiary, an initiative that has blossomed over the past two years. “It all started as a Green Industries project, with Grade 9 students having to pick a local project which had something to do with a Green Industry that somehow could translate to the School,” Mr. MacMillan says. The initial idea for the beekeeping initiative came from Rachel Millar ’21, who put the proposal together and received approval from Mr. Liggett to install an apiary on the School’s grounds. Rachel’s father, Ian, is an apiarist (or beekeeper) and has been helping the School in building a solid foundation for the long-term prosperity of the project. As of now, the honey harvested is not for sale but will be used as gifts for contributors to the project and guests of the School.
The class took on the role of a design firm in creating a design for Mr. MacMillan that would satisfy his vision as well as bring in fresh ideas from a student perspective. After a briefing from Mr. MacMillan, the students were guided through an entire design process which allowed them to think on their feet while expanding their skillset in experimenting with Adobe Illustrator. “We used a design thinking tool called Crazy Eights, an activity during which students had to design eight designs, given two minutes per design,” Ms. Weening notes. Their ideas were refined, digitized, and extensive feedback was provided by the students and the teachers until the best designs were presented to Mr. MacMillan.
Mr. MacMillan was immensely impressed by the results and the students’ ability to interpret his ideas into labels that showed their high level of understanding of the principles of design and marketing. “When the students presented their ideas, I was floored,” he says, “I wanted something that looked professional and not cartoonish, and that’s exactly what I got.”
The favourite design was that of Billy Tsiolis ’20, who appreciated the project as a learning experience that allowed him to grow and gain unprecedented insight into the workings of a design firm. “Developing the brand of the CDS Honey Project was an altogether different experience from anything I’ve worked on before in a classroom,” Billy says. “While in an orthodox classroom structure, students don’t get the opportunity to apply the skills they learn in to the real world, Communications Technology took a different approach.” He enjoyed employing the knowledge that he gained in the classroom about successful branding techniques of major corporations in a hands-on setting, and was glad to have experienced the challenge of managing a client’s expectations.
“The innovative and unique structure of Grade 12 Communications Technology proved very effective in teaching me real-world skills that I may apply to numerous future endeavours,” Billy says. “This project is one that I will never forget.”