Parkland christens marine academy

Program at North Saanich high school offers courses with a distinctly nautical bent

Marine restoration instructor Tyler Caddell and student Caleb Walsh show some of the tools they’re using to refurbish a boat donated to Parkland Secondary School’s new marine institute.

Creating a program with a decidedly sea-going flavour was a natural fit for Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich.

For one, being located on an island means there are a variety of resources nearby, from yacht clubs and working marinas, to the ocean itself. Secondly, right across the street from the school is one of those working marinas.

Drawing on those community resources, the school has built a marine academy, enabling students to give their courses a nautical flavour. From the sciences to technology classes, principal Mark Fraser says students in the academy receive a grounding in marine life.

That’s not just sea creatures in a biology class. Fraser pointed out that marine life could be experience as a shipbuilding apprentice, or as a harbour pilot. It all comes down to a student’s career interest.

“We are working to give students an opportunity to pursue interests and career opportunities in the marine industry,” Fraser explained, noting there are four general pathways in the school’s new academy (it was only given the green light by the board of School District 63 earlier in November).

First, is the academic side of the program. Once enroled in the academy, students’ courses are taught with a marine flavour. Math, science and technology classes especially.

Second is the trades courses offered at Parkland. There is a marine restoration program on offer, using a boat donated to the school. It’s currently being rebuilt by students, led by instructor Tyler Caddell.

Third is the school’s new sailing academy. It’s a sub-level to the overall marine academy, and is open not only to students but the general public as well. Fraser said it offers courses in sailing and more, thanks to support from the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club.

Fourth is the opportunity for students to obtain marine certifications.

“The more we put into it,” said Fraser, “the more the opportunities for the students.”

The idea of a marine academy started two years ago, Fraser explained.

It took interested and dedicated teaching staff — as well as support from the business community — to get it off the ground. The impetus for taking this direction in the first place, he continued, was a need for more students in the school.

Declining enrolment has been an issue for PSS, as well as other schools up and down Vancouver Island. Fewer students means less cash, as schools are funded on a per student basis. Other schools have been developing other academy concepts, from music to sports and other specialities in between.

Fraser said a marine institute was discussed and was pushed into serious action after a boat was donated to the school in 2011. That prompted PSS staff to talk to people in the marine industry on the Peninsula and the response was enthusiastic.

Fraser said the school has made connections with local businesses, from small shops all the way up to B.C. Ferries, offering varying levels of support. It all helped put the academy idea into motion and now that it’s in place, Fraser said he’s sure it’s the only one of its kind.

“I can’t find a school that has all four components to it.”

At the Grade 9 and 10 level, students in the academy take math and science courses all year long that have a marine focus. Projects take place in school and out on the water and provides experience and an idea if the path they have chosen is right for them.

By Grades 11 and 12, students can take courses like Marine Sciences 12 (biology). The focus continues, offering students the chance to try out all aspects of the industry — even with the possibility of apprenticeships with local businesses. It gives them, said Fraser, post-secondary and pre-apprenticeship credits.

“We’re really pleased we’ve been able to develop these opportunities for students and be able to increase their knowledge and expertise,” Fraser said.

Still very early in the academy’s existence, he did say they have one class of Grade 9 students following marine-based courses this year. Another 15 students are working on the boat restoration with Mr. Caddell. In the second semester, Fraser said the school’s marine science class will begin.

These initial steps to get the program off the ground will be built on, he continued, with support from the community.

“We want our students to be able to see every aspect of the industry and develop their talent and passions that they might already have.”

Portions of the academy are open to the general public. Fraser said the sailing academy offers programs (such as Power Squadron and Transport Canada safety certificates) for a $600 fee.

To learn more, contact Parkland Secondary School at 250-655-2700 or visit http://parkland.sd63.bc.ca.

 

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