Saturday, 1 June 2013

Getting A PHD in High School - Project Heavy Duty

Friday I attended a work site lunch where 18 secondary students celebrated the completion of their PHD's. No doctorates were awarded, but all of the students had mastered operations of some large pieces of machinery. In SD60 PHD stands for Project Heavy Duty - a program now in its 11th year, where selected Grade 11 and 12 students are given the opportunity to learn about, and operate many kinds of heavy equipment. Under the close supervision of qualified operators, students receive hands-on training with such equipment as crawler/dozers, excavators, graders, rock trucks and a variety of logging equipment on a job site.

Over the years many local contractors, businesses and other agencies have been generous in supplying equipment and operators, facilities, fuel, food, first aid, security, communications equipment and other services required for the project. Project supporters include diverse businesses including a local paper, a financial institution, several contractors, oil companies and other community partners . (Follow this link to see a complete listing of our PHD partners.)  The project is scheduled for a full week, usually in May. Students selected for the project do not attend regular classes during that time.  

Safety is a top concern to everyone involved. Students receive training in first aid and site safety. As well, they must attend presentations from Worksafe BC before entering the work site. All Worksafe guidelines for standard work sites are followed on site, and students receive one on one safety instruction from qualified operators before operating any piece of equipment. At all times student operators are overseen by qualified operators, and site supervisors are assigned to each area of the project. Absolutely no horseplay is tolerated at any time. This is a working project with real life equipment, rules and expectations.

Students who take part in this project benefit in many ways. Their hands-on experience with heavy equipment gives them skills for possible future employment, exposure to different career choices, opportunities to meet and impress local business people and potential employers and experience on real life job site. The students learn valuable skills relating to safety at the workplace as well as  job application skills like how to write applications, fill in resumes, and behave at interviews. Hands on learning beyond the classroom has a proven track record of success. As noted at Benefit hands on learning is more enjoyable, enhances retention and creativity, and develops critical thinking skills and a greater sense of accomplishment in participants.

A project of this nature needs special people at the controls. District Principal Richard Koop has been with the program since its inception. Previously a school based administrator, Richard has been able to combine his lifelong passion for construction and industrial training with his considerable talents as an teacher and administrator. Project Heavy Duty and the district's successful Residential Construction Program are his key responsibilities. Selecting the students and guiding these programs, Richard has been instrumental in providing hundreds of students alternate paths to educational success. Working with Richard is Donny Goodbun. Now at an age where others might consider retiring, Donny steps up every year. His dedicated efforts and vast experience are appreciated by everyone. PHD has become a family project for the Goodbuns, Sons Trent and Tyrell are two of the operators that work with students.

Project Heavy Duty is a great example of how our district works to make learning relevant and important for everyone. From the organizers to the sponsors to the students to our community partners PHD is one project where everyone comes away enriched.

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