The 4 Principles of VCAL & My Orientation Project

This year I attended VALA’s conference and listened to Rod Sheehan from Peter Lalor Vocational College. He spoke of the need to make sure that VCAL projects had the following 4 principles –

  1. Real World Application
  2. Technical Content
  3. Hands on Learning
  4. Reflection

I’d never really thought about the above principles, I’d always just planned for ‘Applied Learning’ in a general sense.

Since then, I’ve tried to incorporate these 4 principles in everything I do when planning for my VCAL classes.

So, for your viewing pleasure, I’m about to share with you a quick project that I am going to complete during VCAL orientation week. The project includes the 4 principles.

Planter Box  Project


(250 minutes (2 x 100 and 1 x 50 minute lessons))

Introduce Project

  • Working in groups of three, students will create a planter box from old pallets.
  • Research pallet planter box’s on youtube. Find an instructional video and transcribe the video into step by step instructions
  • Scale draw your designs
  • Come up with a risk assessment.

Real World Application

  • Students will be placing the planter boxes in locations around the school to ‘beautify’ the local community

Technical Content

  • Transcribing instructions to create a step by step guide
  • Scale drawings
  • Planting seeds at right depth / temperature
  • Risk assessments
  • Taking photos / videos for evidence
  • Material list

Hands on Learning

  • Creating the planter box from old pallets
  • Painting the planter boxes
  • Planting flowers


  • Using ICT (myedapp) students will reflect on the week using reflective techniques, what worked, what didn’t, what could they do better next time?

Key 21st C Skills: Collaboration, Creativity & Imagination,  Problem solving

Lesson Structure:

  • Welcome to VCAL
  • Real world application, technical content, hands on learning, reflection, 21st C skills
  • Timeline of this week
  • Expected behaviours
  • What you put in, you will get out.
  • Participation is key – evidence based, need to do the work in front of me.
  • Photos and videos are a must for this subject – you need to prove you’ve been there and done that, photos and videos prove this
  • VCAL is all about hands on learning – doing things.
  • Introduce topic using essential question / learning intention (what will they learn?)
  • Basic Research skills, transcribing instructions and risk assessments (basics) – just an introduction to these topics, scale drawing
  • Hand out task sheet (need to create one) – need to have video address and step by step guidelines, scale drawing sheet and spot for drawing design, material list
  • Show them videos on youtube, how to access them
  • Obtain materials (I already have)
  • Create planter boxes
  • Reflect on learning

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