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Hands-on summer school classes have 'really exploded' in Burnaby: district

Cabinetry, carpentry and furniture design course at Alpha Secondary among new offerings this year

Burnaby schools have been hives of activity once again this summer with students learning everything from how to run a SKIL saw to how to bake a pie.

The Burnaby school district saw record enrolment in its summer session this year after a dip in both registrations and course offerings in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Alpha Secondary saw the addition of a new course on cabinetry, carpentry and furniture design taught by Philip Finlayson.

“It’s a good life skill,” said Sean Cogan, a student who’s going into Grade 9 at Burnaby Mountain Secondary next year.

He said he took the course because he likes woodworking and people in his family work in the industry.

Lauren Wan, another student going into Grade 9 at Mountain, took the course with a couple of friends after being introduced to woodworking in Grade 8.

“I did enjoy doing woodworking in Grade 8, so I thought this would be a fun course to take,” she said.

Wan, who also took math this summer, said woodworking was the “funner” of the two.

Along with offering traditional academic courses during the summer session, the school district is continuing a shift towards offering more hands-on options.

“That stuff has really exploded, so we’re really constantly looking at how to improve and add programs,” said director of instruction Kevin Brandt.

The district decided to host most of its ADST (applied design, skills and technologies) courses – including everything from computer game design to urban gardening – at Cariboo Hill this year.

“For the quality of the shops that they have there, it was just very much underused over the summer,” explained Ces Martino, the district principal in charge of summer school.

It was a bit of a risk, according to Brandt, since the school had never been opened up for the summer before, but it’s paid off, he said.

“We were really surprised that we had such a good response, so we’ll definitely have it open next year,” he said.

But the district wanted to offer a hands-on option on the north side as well, and Alpha shop teacher Philip Finlayson was also keen to teach a summer course at his home school, according to Martino.

The half-day cabinetry, carpentry and furniture design course gives students four graduation credits and 120 hours of hands-on experience at three different trades, according to Finlayson.

“They learn the basics, explore interests and get a sense of what trade they may want to pursue,” he said. “From there, students can move onto one of the apprenticeship programs.”

The course started on July 5 and winds up on Aug. 6.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor