Innisfil Grade 8 class creates Manitoulin-based woodworking business

Innisfil meets Manitoulin! Grade 8 students at St. Francis of Assisi School in Innisfil, display products from their company MINISfil Woodworks.

INNISFIL—A Grade 8 class at St. Francis of Assisi School in Innisfil has not only learned about Manitoulin Island, and won a national award from BMO for enterprising spirit, but funds they raised through their business MINISfil Woodworks are going to benefit youth their age: a financial donation made to Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) in Mindemoya.

“This year my Grade 8 class participated in the Ontario Learning Partnerships Entrepreneurial Adventure,” Grade 8 teacher Christa Matthews told the Recorder. “This initiative encourages classes to create a business, practice their twenty-first century skills for the workplace, and donate any proceeds to charity.”

Ms. Matthews explained a Manitoulin business and its owners were key to this program being developed by students in the class. “When we decided to take part in the program we asked all teachers and staff in the school about what kind of projects we could look at and what resources they may have that we could use.”

“One of our Kindergarten teachers, Jean Cerilli along with her husband Brian (Bainborough), own Maple Ridge Farm on Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Matthews. “Jean said they could offer some fallen maple trees from their farm as a resource.”

“I am one of the Kindergarten teachers in the school,” Ms. Cerilli told the Recorder. “The school has three Kindergarten and a  senior Kindergarten class so roughly 100 Kindergarten kids in the school. I told Christa I could bring in some wood for their project. It was then that Ms. Matthews told her about the idea her class had. I called Brian and all I had to say was we need some of the trees (from their farm) and he took care of transporting some trees down here.”

“The students had to come up with an idea as to what their project would be and they decided to use the wood to make cheese- cracker serving trays, called charcuterie boards,” said Ms. Matthews.

The students also decided to not only manufacture charcuterie boards, but donate the proceeds from their sales back to the  original source, Manitoulin, said Ms. Matthews.

“Brian (Bainborough) and an apprentice carpenter Mitch Forrester cut the wood (into smaller disc size pieces) for the students to  use,” said Ms. Matthews. However, there were many challenges along the way, including drying the wood, sanding, staining, treating, selling and marketing their charcuterie boards.

“We had to be adaptable. Because the trees were fresh when we got them, if we sealed the discs when they were wet, they could crack and mould,” continued Ms. Matthews. The school found someone in Midland, Ontario with a kiln, who took the 45 discs to dry and after, using four different grades of sandpaper their wood and then treating it with food safe sealant.

In the project each student had a specific role within the ‘company,’ said Ms. Matthews.

As for the charcuterie boards, “they basically sold themselves, it was easy to sell them. We didn’t have to sell much outside of the school.”

“For their company the students chose the name MINISfil Woodworks as a tribute to the circle we were trying to create between Manitoulin Island and Innisfil, where we live,” said Ms. Matthews. “The students did more research and discovered that Minis is island in Ojibway, and is one of the languages they speak on Manitoulin. The students thought it was an appropriate name.”

“The other thing the students had to do is pick a charity for the money they raised from the sale of the serving trays to go to,” continued Ms. Matthews. “The students felt it was important that since Jean and Brian had been one of the key parts of the project that some of the money should go back to the Island. They also wanted the funds to benefit youth and teens. The students selected Manitoulin Family Resources as their charity because it was important that the proceeds return to where the resources originated.”

“These students are unbelievable,” stated Ms. Cerilli. “I was so impressed by their commitment, dedication and research to the project and that they wanted the connection to the Island to be real. Even with the name they chose for their company it demonstrated how much they wanted to have this connection (to Manitoulin).”

“We were able to raise approximately $1,000 and won a national award from BMO for enterprising spirit. This project was worthwhile in so many ways and I was able to see my students take an incredible journey,” continued Ms. Matthews.