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15 minutes of kindergarten fame

My safety vest and hard hat were on. My presentation was carefully prepared. I had reinforcements in my back pocket: chocolate hard hats and temporary tattoos. The time had come to address my energetic yet unpredictable audience. I took a deep breath, entered the room, and introduced myself to Queen Anne Elementary’s kindergarten and first grade classes.

Thankfully, the intimidation was short-lived as the kids showed immediate interest with chatter and questions. Once the teacher used her tricks to calm them down, it was time to fulfill my mission and teach the kids about building. With their school currently under construction, the teachers identified a valuable learning opportunity. Following a previous visit from a city planner and a field trip to explore downtown Seattle building types, now it was my turn to teach them the nuts and bolts of construction.

Kindergartners and first graders test out General Foreman Scott Johnson’s hard hat. One of the first questions asked was “what are all those stickers from?”

After describing my job as a General Foreman and letting the kids try my hard hat on for size [there may have been some strength testing involved with a few solid smacks and fist pounds], I did my best to describe the complex building process. I compared each layer of a building to a system of the body; for example, our bones are the building’s structure, and the MEP systems represent circulation. Just like the body, every building component is necessary to make it work.

I was impressed with the kids’ excitement. They were so eager to listen, asked many relevant questions, and even collaborated when it came to the hands-on portion of the presentation—constructing their own buildings out of cardboard, paper, and glue. LOTS of glue.

Slide 1

The presentation compared building components to those of a human body. The building structure is just like a skeleton.

Slide 2

The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems resemble the body's circulation system.

After Scott’s presentation, the students built their own structures using boxes, paper, markers, and glue.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when the teacher reached out to me last November and invited me to share something I’m so passionate about. It’s important to educate young people about the industry so they see that construction is a viable career for everyone. Unlike some career fields, construction is here to stay because it simply can’t be outsourced. Even with possible automation in the future, there will always be a need for people in the field. If we don’t fuel the future generation’s interest early, they may never consider it as an option.

Fieldwork [carpentry, layout, ironwork, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.] is a very fulfilling profession. I find a lot of satisfaction in the ability to return to a project I was a part of and seeing the finished product. There are many young adults today that would flourish out in the field but instead are sitting in lecture halls and chasing degrees because that is the expectation. Please don’t misunderstand my feelings of college; it’s important to a lot of people, and a well-rounded education is essential, but I know there are people going to college because they believe it is the only path to success. I work with teams of highly intelligent, talented, and successful individuals who are passionate about using their hands, working hard, and making a difference.

Scott had the students’ full attention when showing them all of his tools and safety gear he uses for his job as a General Foreman.

With such an engaged and fun audience, my visit to the Queen Anne Elementary classroom seemed to fly by. I loved being able to share my passion for building, even with construction paper and glue. The students were not the only ones who benefited from this day—my small yet profound audience reminded me to approach my daily work with the same curiosity and energy that they brought to the classroom.

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