Students At Mattawa District Public School Prepare To Make A Splash

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Students at Mattawa District Public School (MDPS) are looking forward to making a splash with their experiential learning. Before they do that, they need to finish their canoe paddles.

The Paddle Build Project engages Grade 6 students at MDPS in an experiential learning opportunity as they build a canoe paddle from start to finish.

English kindergarten teacher, Jonathon O’Donoughue outlined how students pair traditional classroom learning with experiential learning. They start by determining their height and how tall the paddle needs to be as a result. Following that, they get to work applying their learned skills to the project. Before long they have a souvenir to take home with them at graduation.

The project has evolved since it was introduced in 2013, including more learning applicable to various aspects of the curriculum. “The students do experiential math, practical measurement, (and) fractions. It shows the students what real-life math is,” explained O’Donoughue.

“This project has curriculum connections that are responsive to the social studies and history curriculum, with goals connected to the historical and contemporary contributions of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit Peoples,” stated Principal/Vice-Principal Tracy Bellaire.

Over the course of the project, students receive instruction in mathematics to accurately design and build their paddle, and learn about workshop and tool safety.

Dawson, a Grade 6 student at MDPS, said he enjoyed the project because it allowed him to be active and work with tools, as opposed to sitting at a desk.

Brooklyn, another student taking part in the project, expressed why she enjoyed the different way of learning; “this project helps me with my math and allows me to use actual measuring and fractions instead of reading about it in a textbook.” Additionally, Brooklyn expressed excitement in looking forward to the summer and being able to put her paddle to use.

In years past, the students would work with their older counterparts in the woodshop at FJ McElligott Secondary School (FJMSS). The project supports the transition from MDPS elementary to beginning their intermediate years at FJMSS.

“This Grade 6 to 7 transition event enables students to relate to and recognize the historic relationships between the local Algonquin and Voyageur Cultures who used these local waterways to travel and explore the lands,” said Bellaire.

Since COVID-19 has created some challenges, students and staff have come up with an alternative, completing the build at MDPS while continuing to honour its deeper meaning. The overarching goal of the project is to prepare MDPS graduating students for a smooth and positive transition to secondary school.

In years unaffected by COVID-19, students from MDPS join the FJMSS Specialist High Skills Major Outdoor Education students near the end of the school year to use their paddles. It is a mutually beneficial opportunity, as FJMSS students get to complete their practical canoeing exam and MDPS students get to learn about the parts of a canoe, boat safety, and paddling technique.

Students will be presented with their completed paddles at graduation as a symbol of their hard work and dedication throughout their time at MDPS. Some students plan on displaying them at home, while others will put them to use next summer. Meanwhile, the two schools look forward to once again working together after the pandemic passes.

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