Westmount High School’s bike co-op, student-run fitness centre and other entrepreneurial activities encourage kids to take responsibility and practise life skills.
When Andrew Robinson began his career as a history, English and geography teacher a few years ago, he found students had little outlet for what he calls “hands-on, tied-to-the-outside-world learning.” That “huge learning gap” sent him in a new direction. While continuing to teach in the day, he enrolled in an evening Cabinet Making program at the English Montréal School Board’s Rosemount Technology Centre. Now at Westmount High School, Andrew teaches Exploration of Vocational Training, as well as the wood shop segment of the Secondary Cycle Two Science and Technology curriculum.
Part of an elective course
Andrew also worked with his students to set up a bike cooperative. The project started as an extra-curricular activity and was entered in the 2011 Québec Entrepreneurship Contest (QEC) and won the EMSB prize. Now in its third year, the student-run service provides a place where kids can learn to maintain and repair a bike. As a measure of the co-op’s success, bike maintenance will be integrated into the curriculum next year as part of an elective course called “Ecological Choices, Health and the Outdoors.” In 2012, Andrew’s students won a regional first prize in the QEC for creating an in-school fitness centre that they reclaimed from a former storage area. With help from staff members, students plastered, painted and sourced equipment donations. The centre is open before and after school and at lunch for personal and team training, and it is supervised by students in the school’s leadership program.
Passing on their life skills
“Senior students like the idea of leaving a legacy,” says Andrew, “and staff are able to pass on their life skills— maybe even spark a possible career interest.” Andrew believes experiences like these also break down barriers between staff and students: “When the principal shows up in his jeans and workboots, students realize he is really an approachable person.”