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Government boosts hands on education

Schools specializing in hands-on learning will receive a funding boost from the Yukon government.The government is increasing funding for…

Schools specializing in hands-on learning will receive a funding boost from the Yukon government.

The government is increasing funding for vocational and experiential learning programs by 370 per cent, Education Minister Patrick Rouble told media at the Wood Street School on Tuesday.

That amounts to $385,000 and brings annual funding for hands-on learning to $489,000 from $104,000.

“This increase in funding will enable us to deliver the most accessible and best education possible for students in experiential and vocational learning programs,” said Rouble.

“It demonstrates our commitment to be responsive to the real world needs of students by providing vocational skills training and innovative experiential education opportunities at all grades and in all communities,” he added.

This method of learning closely reflects the traditional First Nations way of learning — where in the past they have worked outdoors and with their hands, said Rouble.

It’s important for all Yukon community schools to have access to this funding, he said.

Some programs helped by the funding are FH Collins Secondary’s automotive and welding programs, the Music, Art and Drama program and the Achievement, Challenges, Environment and Service program at Wood Street School.

Greig Bell, the ACES teacher at Wood Street School, has 36 spaces in his program. Every year he has about 80 applicants.

It’s hard to turn away eager kids, he said.

“The money is going to help me deliver the program, but it won’t open up more spaces,” said Bell.

“It’s certainly a move in the right direction.”

The mix of academic and hands-on learning is popular.

“It suits kids that are looking for a bit of a change and are interested in outdoor recreation and fitness,” said Bell.

The Wood Street ACES program starts in Grade 10. Seventy per cent of the kids come back the next year, said Bell.

“When I heard the news that our funding would be increased, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” said Kelly Collins, Takhini Elementary’s principal.

Collins takes a group of students on a 10-week woodworking course at Skills Canada.

The students start by learning how to use hand tools and then progress to power tools.

“I’ve seen this program hold the attention of a Grade 7 kid for two and a half hours straight,” said Collins.

“When you love it, you do it and you don’t stop for a break.”

The funding will be allocated to schools based on the size of their programs and their student population, said Rouble.

High schools will get approximately $60,000 per year and primary schools will get about $15,000 per year.

The money recognizes the shortage of skilled trades workers. Rouble hopes that strengthening the programs will encourage young adults to enter the trades, he said.

The department is considering building a vocational high school, said Rouble.

Student Jason Lin had a hard time with crowds prior to entering the MAD program.

By the end of the program, the Grade 12 student’s confidence, and that of his classmates, had grown to the point where it was difficult to drag them off the stage, said Lin, who then listed physical education, English, social studies, dance, information technology and video production as some of the skills he had learned. 

 “If you want to go into stage theatre, this is the program you want to be in,” said Lin.

“It’s awesome. It’s great. You get to actually try things out.”