O2 program combines ‘hands-on projects’ with helping community

Published on June 9, 2014

Looking over one of the tables assembled and painted by students in the options and opportunities program at YCMHS  (from left): students Kyle Nelson, Jessica Nickerson, Rebekah Durkee-Murphy, Michelle Nickerson, Ashlee Newell and teacher Tarah Thompson-Schwan.


By Eric Bourque




An initiative involving the options and opportunities (O2) program at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School enabled students in the program to get some practical experience while assisting a couple of charitable causes.

The students built picnic tables – one per student, 20 all told – and the tables were auctioned off online, with proceeds to be divided between the Red Cross and SPCA.

As of May 30, when most of the tables were to be picked up by those who had bought them, the total raised stood at around $750 and likely would go up, said Tarah Thompson-Schwan, lead O2 teacher at YCMHS.

“I know a few people are going to make donations on top of that,” she said.

Discussing the project and the work the students put into the tables, she said, “They sanded everything down. They assembled them and they had to pick what they wanted for a design and they’ve painted them.”

From her classroom at YCMHS, Thompson-Schwan pointed to another project her students were working on – a shed that would be donated to Yarmouth Recreation for use at the Hebron Recreation Complex. It’s another example, she said, of how the O2 program puts students to work in a practical way.

“The idea is that we give them a chance to do a lot of hands-on projects, get out in the community, give back to the community,” she said.

The Yarmouth O2 students did a local beach sweep and a garbage cleanup in town, she said, offering a couple of examples of community projects her students have been involved in.

Activities like field trips and presentations by guest speakers help make the program a pretty busy and interesting one for the students, she said.

Among other things, program participants get a chance to visit the Nova Scotia Community College, where they get to see for themselves what the college has to offer and hear instructors talk about it.

Many of the students, Thompson-Schwan said, “have now a much more clear idea of what they want to do for a career path.”

Interests can vary from student to student, she said, mentioning animation and musical arts as examples.

“We’ve got a big mix here,” she said. “We do have a fair number of kids interested in carpentry, mechanics, and we have a few that are quite possibly university-bound too.”

This is the second year for the O2 program at YCMHS.

The program began with 27 Nova Scotia schools in the 2006-07 academic year and now is in 58 schools (involving more than 2,300 students), the department of education says.

A recent visit to the A.F. Theriault & Son boatyard is another example of how program participants get out and see what’s happening, Thompson-Schwan said.

“We try to see as much of a range as stuff as we can,” she said.