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Teacher ‘seas’ opportunities with innovative program

A new program for high school students will get them out of the classroom and on the high seas

Sylvain Chabot has put an incredible amount of his time and energy into creating a brand-new, innovative program for his students.

The program revolves around boating, but the spin-offs are numerous. It’s also an opportunity for local high school students to get out of the classroom and learn from hands-on instruction and pick up some valuable life skills along the way.

The Nautical Sciences program will be taught by Carihi teacher Chabot and will be offered to Grades 10, 11 and 12 students across the district.

“The program involves a lot of sciences,” Chabot says. “Students will learn how to fix (sail boats) and the goal is to use them to sail and then sell after that or to sell the parts to raise funds for the program to keep it going.”

The Nautical Sciences program will run for one full semester, starting February 3, 2014 and run for five hours each day, five days a week for five months.

The program is a partnership between Carihi and Robron Centre which will house the work yard and classrooms in the school’s former wood work and metal work building which hasn’t been used by the school district since Robron Middle School was closed roughly 10 years ago.

Students will take four courses as part of the program – nautical sciences, nautical technologies, physical education sailing, and drafting. In addition, students will take at least one academic course through distance learning which can be done online at Robron Centre or from home.

But during class time, students will be working in the ship yard to learn safety skills while in the yard and on the water. They will also work towards getting their boats ready for sailing. By March the students are expected to have their boats sea worthy.

“They have to fix all the sailing dinghies and the sail boats,” Chabot says. “It’s motivation. If they don’t have a boat – they don’t sail.”

March, April and May will be spent sailing on dinghies building up to June when the class will take out their sail boats. The boats will be docked at the Quadra Island Harbour Authority, which is partnering with the school district. The Heriot Bay Inn is also a partner and will provide a place for lunch and showers for the students on sailing days. The Campbell River ReStore has also gotten on board and is donating tools in exchange for the students putting in volunteer hours at the store.

While the program is anchored around boating there are several different aspects and opportunities for all sorts of learners. While one group of students will work on the mechanics, a technical group will fill positions such as secretary, accountant, plumber, propulsion technician, painter, seamstress, chemical handling, interior decorator, marketer and an editor for the website which is due to launch in late October.

Students will also be able to obtain their pleasure craft operator licence, take the power squadrons boating course and get their First Aid certificates as well as WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training while enrolled in the program. There’s also the opportunity for students to get in the pool at Strathcona Gardens and learn water safety and snorkelling.

“The boat is central to all parts of the program but you can do all these other certificates,” says Kai Taylor, vice-principal of Robron Centre. “This appeals to a wide variety of learners.”

Chabot said he’s open to having businesses come into the classrooms to provide training for their industries that employers are looking for in new employees.

“It’s all about partnerships and there’s lots of spin-offs,” Taylor says.

Chabot credits Carihi principal Sean Toal for allowing him to proceed with the hands-on program.

To get the ball rolling, a fundraising dinner with a silent auction will be held on Sat., October 19 at 6 p.m. at the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island. Divers Kirk and Mandy-Rae Krack, a diver and world record holder for free diving respectively, will give a presentation during the event. To reserve a spot call (250) 285-3322.

The program is also in need of boating equipment and donors will be issued tax receipts. To donate, contact Chabot at (250) 286-6282 or e-mail