Boats and Bikes

The percentage of students at Thames Valley schools who graduate in four-years is 67.8%. This number is below the provincial average and nowhere near what our students deserve.

So in a move that mirrors a broader conversation about how to help kids who have more than a few obstacles in front of them succeed, David Vine, Technological Studies Department Head and Construction Technology Teacher at Strathroy District Collegiate Institute devised a course to help engage students ‘in risk’ at his school. “Students who do not graduate are what we call in-risk,” says David. “These students often state that they do not see school as relevant to their lives and that classes aren’t always engaging.”

The course started small. In 2016/2017 the first boat was built as part of the single credit Grade 10 Construction Technology course with 20 students. David saw the engagement of the students and decided to grow the program. In the 2017/2018 school year David transformed the program to a dual credit course, including both Construction Technology and the addition of a locally developed Math course. It was evident that he had the beginnings of something that students wanted to participate in.

According to David, he wanted to create a program to engage reluctant learners and teach them both relevant hands-on skills and employability skills. “I wanted to strengthen students' self-development skills and interpersonal relationship skills through teamwork.” But not only that, David wanted to “get them off their screens and into the outdoors, improve their health and wellness through exercise while at the same time strengthen literacy and numeracy skills.”

Last year, when the program grew to 31 students, Math teacher Cassie Tamminga joined the teaching team allowing David to focus on the Technological Studies component and Cassie on the Math component. The result was Boats and Bikes.

For the Boats component, students build, paint, and sail/row a wooden boat, including hand carved oars. The course targets the expectations of the Grade 10 Construction curriculum as it relates to the building of a boat (design, layout and planning, fabrication, assembly and finishing, the environment, and career opportunities). The course also targets the expectations of the Grade 10 locally developed Math curriculum (i.e. proportional reasoning to create and interpret drawings and scale models of the boat; measurement; money sense, etc.).

For the Bikes component Jeff Smith, a bike mechanic from the local bike shop Doug and Marion’s is invited to the school each Monday. Jeff works one-on-one with students, in small groups, to diagnose and repair old and damaged bikes that are donated by the local communities, further strengthening critical thinking skills. Each student adopts one bike at the beginning of the semester and works on it with the mechanic. Once the bikes are repaired, the students are led on rides around town for exercise in the middle of the half-day morning class, understanding the linkages among exercise, nature and learning. At the end of the semester, students have the option to take home their bike. Additional repaired bikes are offered to families in need.

Towards the end of the course, students get to participate in two field trips. One to Fanshawe Yacht Club in London to celebrate the build and launch their completed boats. Another to Pinery Provincial Park for exercise and testing of the repaired bikes.

Helping more students on the path to graduation is important to David. Project-based courses such as Boats and Bikes are a great way to ensure students stay engaged. “When a course uses relevant, real-world examples and projects to drive curriculum, it’s easy to get students excited about their learning,” says David. And for teachers, nothing can beat that.

Photo Gallery: Boats and Bikes will appear here on the public site.

Boats and Bikes has received supplemental funding through several ministry funded grants, including the Youth in Care grant, and the Community Connected Experiential Learning grant.


Did you know?

Boats and Bikes is one of Thames Valley's School-within-a-School programs. School-within-a-School is defined as a flexible and integrated approach to learning that consists of no discrete and separate subjects and no periods - just learning. Today, there are over 1,800 students at 27 different schools with 113 teachers participating various iterations of the program, which promotes widespread collaboration, innovation and creativity in schools.




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