Saturday, 31 May 2014

Project Heavy Duty Revisited

This week Project Heavy Duty celebrated its 12th year of giving selected secondary students the opportunity to learn about, and actually operate, many kinds of heavy equipment. Under the close supervision of qualified instructors and operators, students received five days of hands-on training with such equipment as crawler/dozers, excavators, graders, rock trucks and a variety of logging equipment as they performed industry standard jobs on a real work site.

Over the years many local contractors, businesses and other agencies have been generous in supplying equipment, operators, facilities, fuel, food, first aid, security, communications equipment and the 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 in May. Students selected for the project do not attend regular classes, but report for field work during that time.  

Safety is a top concern for 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 working 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 to experience a 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 continues to step up every year. His dedicated efforts and vast experience are appreciated by everyone. Heavy Duty has become a family project for the Goodbuns, as  sons Trent and Tyrell, former SD60 students, are now two of the operators working with our current students.

Project Heavy Duty is a great example of how SD 60 works to make learning relevant and important for everyone. Its curious that the benefits and learning outcomes from projects such as this one don't get the same level of recognition in school ranking processes as other more formal assessments or government exams. Certainly the students recognize the benefits. Many of them cite the week as some of the best learning they've ever had. From the organizers, to the sponsors, to the students, to our community partners, Project Heavy Duty is an opportunity where everyone comes away enriched.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bike To Work Week - Time to Get Re - cycling!

May 26 - June 1st is Bike to Work Week in BC. As outlined at  their website Bike to WorkWeek is organized by Canada Bikes in partnership with independent cycling leaders, organizations and government representatives, and begins on Monday, May 26th in different locations across the country. Bike to Work Week is about bringing together cyclists, cycling organizations and members of all three levels of government to highlight the importance of cycling development in Canada as a healthy, environmentally and economically friendly form of physical activity and transportation. And once you've started with a first day, it gets easier to bike the rest of the week!

Biking to work can a bit tricky in the North Peace. Given our extended winters, the propensity for works crew to throw lots of gravel down to battle ice and the number of large trucks that share our roads, riding any kind of cycle can be an adventure. Personally I prefer two wheels to four at this time of year, and ride my Honda scooter to work on a regular basis. Turning in my motorized transport for pedals requires planning and some determination. I would need to categorize my pedal bike more of a try - cycle, seeing as when I'm biking I've got two tires beneath me, and a spare one that seems to have developed around my middle.

Certainly cycling is worth the effort. The website Bike Radar lists 30 reasons for taking up cycling. They range from the obvious environmental  benefit to improved physical fitness and wellness, through to less obvious factors such as the ways cycling can boost creativity, actually decrease one's exposure to pollution and improve one's mood.  On the other side of the coin those opposed to cycling to work list time constraints, weather, a need to go elsewhere before or after work or school,  parking availability; parking costs, safety from traffic and crime, and the terrain they have to traverse as major obstacles to regular cycling.

One of the biggest obstacles to riding to work may be that many of us are just  plain out of practice. Bike to Work Week provides some incentive and the opportunity to put aside the negatives, and get back on two wheels. So long as you do it safely, wear a helmet and and stay aware of your surroundings, biking to work this week might be a refreshing and invigorating change.  Energizing one's mind, helping the environment and getting some much needed exercise can help everyone bring a sharper focus to education matters.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Learning and Commitment - A Winning Combination

This month SD 60 students showed, yet again, that they are amongst the best in all of Canada when it comes to demonstrating commitment to learning. Whether in the areas of careers, specialized science projects, or energy education and awareness, our students have consistently proven that they are some of the best anywhere.

On May 7th representatives of local business and industry, district staff, teachers, students and families gathered in the North Peace Secondary School cafeteria to celebrate the annual Sponsor and SSA Scholarship recognition banquet. Over 100 persons attended to celebrate as thousands of dollars in scholarship funds were distributed to deserving winners. To be eligible for SSA Scholarships, ITA registered youth apprentices must graduate with a Grade 12 Dogwood Diploma or Adult Dogwood Diploma, successfully complete SSA 11A, SSA 11B, SSA 12A and SSA 12B, maintain a C+ average or better on  all their Grade 12 numbered courses, and report a minimum of 900 hours to the ITA within six months of secondary school graduation.  Students were honored for their work in such diverse trades as construction, hair dressing, and electrical.  

The Spectra Energy Endowment Fund provides scholarships and bursaries to recognize the accomplishments and provide financial help to northeast BC students participating in a Northern Opportunities dual credit program and/or apprenticeship. Approximately $43,000 – $45,000 is available annually to be distributed through the Northern Opportunities Student Awards Program. While much of the rest of the province is just becoming aware of the potential of careers education, SD 60 has been excelling at it for years,

May 15th saw five of our district's students participating in the Canada Wide Science Fair held in Windsor, Ontario after qualifying for nationals at regionals. Few districts can match the achievement of sending five students ranging in age from grade seven through 12 to nationals. That four of the five brought home medals for their effort, including one gold is a tribute both to the efforts of the students and of their teachers and families for supporting them. SD 60 has a tradition of sending strong performers to Canada Wide and even International Science Fair, and with the support we have from the dedicated members of the district science fair committee, it seems that tradition will continue.

Its a great accomplishment when individual students achieve success. Its even better when a whole school collaborates to win a national contest together - not just once, but three years in a row! On May 16 Canadian Geographic announced that Duncan Cran had won its Classroom Energy Diet contest for the third straight year out performing over a thousand other schools from all across Canada. The Classroom Energy Diet Challenge is a competition among Canadian classes from kindergarten to Grade 12 that aims to increase energy awareness among youth and educators. To successfully defend their title for the second straight year Duncan Cran was able to muster 100% participation from all students and classes.

Having students recognized either individually or as part of a greater team effort is a source of tremendous pride both for them and their families and for the district as we work to ensure our students are provided with the best education possible. While some agencies might point out the challenges that come with growing up in a small northern community, we would rather celebrate the accomplishments of our schools and students and recognize just how well our students stack up when compared with others. SD 60 has long said that we want our students to be amongst the best in, and for, the world. Results like the ones described above show we are continuing to make good on that promise.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Banding Together - The Benefits Of Music Education

This week the district band program hosted its spring concert. A packed house at the North Peace Cultural Center listened as each of the district's four band goups; beginner, grade 7, Junior Concert Band and Senior Concert Band played a medley of well crafted and enjoyable selections. At one point in the program the junior band were joined by members of the community Northwinds band group with the result producing some of the most impressive music of the evening.

That the numbers of students taking band remains strong is a tribute to the energy and dedication shown by the program's four teacher conductors. They are a diverse group ranging in experience from program coordinator Sandra Gunn, who has been with the program for well over a decade, to Mr. Price who is well established at NPSS, to Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, who are relatively new in the district. All of them bring a sincere passion for music education to their efforts, and their dedication is clearly reflected in the fond regard that many students express about their band experiences.  Not only are student numbers strong, but the quality of performance is also high, with this year's Concert Band being recommended on the strength of their festival performances, to participate in Musicfest Canada, a national graded music competition held in the lower mainland later this month.

Too often band and fine arts programs find themselves on the chopping block when districts look at budget cuts. SD 60 has been, and will remain, committed to supporting the arts. There are many benefits to music education. Visit the Victoria Conservatory of Music's website and you will find a dozen great reason for supporting band and similar programs. As the conservatory points out, band encourages creativity but also demonstrates the value of craftmanship. It emphasizes the benefits of practice and diligence and teaches children to face their fears and take some risks. Playing before an audience, or just for personal enjoyment can help students find their own means of self expression, build self esteem and enhance their sense of personal efficacy. 

Creativity, teamwork and finding one's place in the world are all valuable 21st Century skills. Aside from other benefits, this week's concert demonstrated that being in band can be just plain fun. The smiles I saw on the faces of parents, teachers and students proves the district's band program  is clearly hitting all the right notes and proves that learning can be both fun and entertaining for those who take the time to play and listen.