Grade 6 class students at Watson Road Elementary had an opportunity to learn about woodworking by building their own toolboxes. (Contributed)

Toolbox project rewarding for Central Okanagan students

Initiative benefits high school and elementary school classes

The discovery for a Grade 6 class at Watson Road Elementary about the wonders of carpentry was a big hit with the students.

Assisted by a grant from the ITA (Industry Training Authority), which leads and coordinates B.C.’s trades system, the class led by teacher Trisha Churcher gave students the opportunity to partake in a toolbox woodworking project under the Central Okanagan School District Trades Sampler program.

In a unique twist, high school girls participating in the Trades Discover program were called upon to create the components required for each of the 32 Watson Road participants to assemble their toolboxes.

Both programs fall under the school district’s dual credit initiative designed to open up opportunities for students to learn about and pursue career opportunities in a trades profession.

Churcher said the experience created a magical, learning atmosphere in her classroom as her 11 and 12 year-old students had their eyes opened to working with handsaws and drills, and learning new skills they didn’t realize they possessed within themselves.

READ MORE: Pathway to trades career for Central Okanagan students

Churcher noted two students with learning disabilities who rose to the head of the class with their acumen in completing their toolbox projects, seeing their efforts used as examples for their peers to follow, an experience that was a powerful self esteem booster for them.

“Just to see the students create their own project and to enjoy woodworking was awesome to see,” she said.

Churcher said she hopes to see the program expanded next year to include all the Grade 6 students at Watson Road.

Claus Gerlach, a high school shop teacher and carpentry instructor at Okanagan College, said his Trades Discover students enjoyed the connection of creating a project for the younger students to benefit from, to the extent that each toolbox kit was included with a personal hand-written note of encouragement such as “You are the reason someone smiles,” “You are appreciated,”and “Merry Christmas.”

“COVID-19 limited the interaction we would have liked to see between the two classes but our students embraced the project with an experience of pride and sense of accomplishment,” Gerlach said, reflected by the notes of kindness and inspiration passed on to the Watson Road class.

Gerlach said Trades Discover students have previously engaged in other projects such as building customized garden shed, middle school wooden garden beds and dressing rooms for the Okanagan College Coyotes basketball teams at their current home court, Kelowna Christian School.