With trades a key part of the new B.C. curriculum, the Coast Mountains School District is running a mobile trades program in Northwest schools to engage elementary students with projects.
With just under $122,000 in funding from the province and Industry Training Authority, the CMSD bought and equipped a trades van last September, which travels to schools in Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton, Stewart, and beyond into the Iskut area, bringing tools and parts for kids’ carpentry projects.
School district career and trades vice principal Doug Brewer, who actually started the work by taking trips in his own pickup, says it’s about expanding the idea of trades in children’s minds.
“A lot of young people these days, don’t do the things that kids in my generation did, things like making go-carts and forts and those kinds of things,” explained Brewer, adding that most kids are too busy in organized sports.
“A big part of my job is to really make connections with our young people… and open up the concepts of what trades and hands-on activities can do.”
“I felt I needed to go to the schools and see the kids, get them involved in doing projects,” said Brewer of how it started.
|Doug Brewer shows one of the wooden car pieces that younger kids sand, smooth, and paint at various trades classes during the year. (Jackie Lieuwen photo)|
Since being hired in 2015, he has developed dozens of wood-working projects for elementary grades, some teacher-led, including bird-feeders and a checker board used in the school.
Kindergarten students glue wooden boats, or sand a car and saw an axel for it as part of their class. Fourth graders nail cedar planters together, and Grade 6 students assemble wooden go-carts that they keep at the school and play on for a week before they are gathered and disassembled for another class to build.
“So I [ask the kids] ‘who likes to work?’” said Brewer, explaining part of a Grade 4 project presentation.
“Sometimes not many hands will go up… but I’ll hire [one of them]. I say, ’Will you work for me?’
“Then I bring them around to the front… and I’ll say to them, ‘Okay, I’ve hired you as my carpenter. So if you’re going to work for me, you need this: And I give them work boots, and a tool belt, a high visibility vest and a hard hat and safety glasses.
Brewer then uses the student to help illustrate the process of what the class is going to build together.
After ten minutes, Brewer stops the kids and says to his student-helper, “Okay, I need to pay you.”
Ears pique and eager students tune in with renewed interest as Brewer pulls out a $5 bill and gives it to the student.
“Then I’ll say, ‘Okay, now if you worked on a job site for eight hours, at $30 an hour, how much would that be?’” Brewer asks.
The class tallies it’s $240, and Brewer pulls out a big wad of $5 bills worth that amount, wowing students with the reward of a day’s work.
From there, each student glues or nails together their own boat or planter using pre-cut pieces of wood.
As often as possible, there’s flexibility within the project, where students can use their creativity to glue pieces differently and make their own unique design.
Brewer’s passion and rich teaching knowledge is evident as he describes the ways he engages students and facilitates mentorships between high school students and younger kids.
Brewer was hired in 2015, after the new B.C. curriculum rolled out, and money for his five-year contract came in the form of a $500,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, divided up across five years.
|Nolan Bedard tries his hand at installing flooring with help from a local Technicon installer at Try-a-Trades Day last year. (Contributed photo)|
Besides bringing wood-working projects to kids, Brewer organizes an annual Try-A-Trades Day for Grade 5 students, where welders, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, masons, construction workers and cooks from Terrace come to school and teach about their trade.
That’s happening tomorrow, June 26, at Caledonia Secondary School.
Students get to pick three activities to be part of, and learn from those involved in the work.
“We get fantastic community support for our programs,” said Brewer, adding that it’s not Try-A-Trades day, but also lots of donated local materials.
“We could not do what we do without that support,” he said.
Besides all the elementary school work, Brewer also supports dual credit high school students, and helps arrange work experience opportunities for students with local companies.
The CMSD has received a total of close to $385,000 over the last three years through the Youth Trades Capital Equipment Program, a three-way partnership between the Industry Training Authority, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training.
Of that $385,000 total, $122,000 went to the trades van, $205,000 was to replace the dust collection system at Caledonia Secondary, $47,000 was for ovens and stoves in culinary arts classes, and almost $11,000 was for iPads for coding programs in New Hazelton.