Trades program proves benefits of partnerships

School District 79 has again partnered with Vancouver Island University to create an Introduction to Trades program for high school students.

Many of the students involved are academically at-risk and not feeling successful in their schools.

The district decided that a more handson approach to learning might benefit these students and allow them to enjoy some success outside of the conventional classroom, as well as earn high school and college credits.

They have been at VIU’s Cowichan Trades Centre since February.

This same group of students is simultaneously enrolled in the Story Trails program, learning and building hiking and mountain biking trails on Maple Mountain.

This part of the program involved the Friendship Centre and the Cowichan Trail Stewards Society as partners, as well as Cowichan Tribes and the Municipality of North Cowichan.

And as you’re adding up the partners, add another one. Parkside Academy Society, a not-for-profit organization operating a 100-seat child care and early learning centre out of the recently closed Somenos School, asked to be a partner as well.

Parkside provided plans and materials to the Introduction to Trades class and asked them to construct needed playground equipment for an outdoor classroom such as a castle, playhouses, a pirate ship, a 168 square metre licensed fenced yard for infants, and a walking path with a large bridge.

The Trades students really enjoyed this project because they were invited to be creative, so they added their own artistic details, themes, and colours to the project.

The high school students are very proud of their work and are thrilled so many preschool students will get to enjoy the fruits of their labour for years to come.

The Parkside Academy staff were very happy to see the new equipment being placed on site, according to Adriana Soler, director of programs, "This partnership was an amazing experience for all involved. The VIU students were able to create some magnificent play materials and structures for all our children to enjoy for years. The children watched them building and were so excited to see their playground being constructed. I am sure we will be hearing a great deal from our little ones about how they want to be construction workers when they grow up."

The school district-VIU students were also grateful to be able to make a contribution while learning new skills.

"Building these playhouses and other projects for the daycare was a good experience for me," said Augie Thomas Jr. Fellow student Shaina Price, who did much of the work in creating the pirate ship, added; "The instructors at VIU are so supportive, and it was awesome to see the looks on the children’s faces when we brought the playhouses out."