Two Upper Canada District School Board secondary schools are the proud recipients of a donation from the Desjardins Foundation. Glengarry District High School in Alexandria and Char-Lan District High School in Williamstown each received $3,000 to support school-based projects that focus on experiential learning in the trades and agricultural programs.

At Glengarry District High School, the funding will support the creation of a shed for the Glengarry Trails shelter project.

“The school has a partnership with the Glengarry Trails association,” explained Principal Jennifer MacLachlan. “We use the trails a lot, as they are so close to the school we can walk to them, and it provides us with increased opportunities for students.

Health and Physical Education and Outdoor Education classes make good use of the trails, as do some of the extra-curricular activities. Biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country running are just some of the ways students use the trails.

As part of the partnership, Grade 10 and 11 construction students are building a shed to be placed on the Glengarry Trails, and the learning is multi-faceted. In addition to learning how to frame walls, build trusses, shingle roofs, and all the other construction components, a major piece of learning is about being a responsible citizen.

“That’s a huge piece of it,” MacLachlan explained. “These students live here, so making that positive contribution to the community, and being able to see a project through to the end is extremely important.”

The school’s construction technology students have been heavily involved in building projects for community organizations for a number of years.

“This experience has allowed me to learn how to use the tools in the shop, how to use measurements to make a building and all the machines and equipment to build a shed,” said student Liam Matt. “I learned a lot of new things, including how there are a lot of things you must look at when taking or selecting what wood to use. You don’t want it to be warped or anything.”

Classmate Dominic Bovin also said that this experience has taught him a lot.

“It taught workmanship and working with people. Some people that you would not normally work with. It was a fun experience.”

The shed, when complete, will have the ability to serve several different purposes for the community, including as a warming or cooling shelter, or for storage.

“Thank you, Desjardins Foundation for funding the building of the sheds,” said Matt. “I know the school and students appreciate it.”

At Char-Lan, the funding will aid in supporting the school’s experiential farm project, to create a green outdoor space where learning can take place. Spearheaded by the school’s Green Industries and Construction teachers, the farm will be for all students to learn and grow.

The school’s Principal, Trevor Wheeler, noted that students in the construction class will obtain real-world construction experience, while meeting the school’s need for picnic tables.

“The Desjardins Foundation funding will allow us to start our green space initiative for students for years to come,” explained Wheeler. “Students in the green industries and construction courses are working together to build picnic tables, which will allow students to use this space for a variety of reasons, even as an outdoor classroom.”

English, music, arts, and science classes are also collaborating in developing the green space at the school, which already includes an orchard and a small greenhouse.

“We’re a pretty tight-knit rural community. Learning about farming is pretty significant to our school population in general,” said Green Industries and Construction teacher, Francis Oliveira. “We are getting a lot of support from community members and businesses, including from local growers and orchards. This funding gives us a really good kickstart to our project, which we hope in the next five years will be very significant.”

The overarching goal of the experiential farm is to produce fruit, vegetables, and a tree nursery where students will learn to produce consumable food, as well as maintain a nursery to provide trees as a renewable resource for the community.

Caitlynn Baker and Zachary Hall are two students in both the green industries and construction programs.

“It’s a great experience for all of us to learn new things and be able to give something to the school that we all work together to do, and it just feels good on our half because they’re able to give something to the school,” shared Baker.

Hall added that the funding from the Desjardins Foundation will allow current and future students the opportunity to achieve the vision of having the experiential farm.

Char-Lan offers an Agriculture Specialist High Skills Major and as part of the green industries and construction programs, students learn about agriculture, food production, orchard maintenance, and nursery maintenance.