Turning job sites into classrooms: students build greenhouse for Montreal Lake

Students from Senator Allen Bird High School pose with the foundation of their soon-to-be eco-friendly greenhouse. (YCHomes INC/Facebook)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Students at Senator Allen Bird High School are stepping out of the classroom to build an eco-friendly greenhouse for their community with the help of two Indigenous-focused organizations.

Your Choice Homes (YCHomes Inc.) has been working with eight students to transform the empty space on Montreal Lake Cree Nation into a valuable resource for residents.

Jay Noel with the Saskatoon-based organization says they’re focused on First Nations practical art programs.

They also have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) for education.

“This is taking them out of the classroom and it’s putting them on the job site. It’s giving them an idea of the real world,” he said, but that’s not the only thing.

“What happens is they feel the confidence, empowerment and they feel like they’re doing something good for their community, which they are.”

Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth, on the other hand, had the connections to kickstart the project and help provide the funding.

Rebecca Rolfe said their national organization had a contact with a teacher at the high school who spearheaded the early development.

They’ve also been working with Lionel Bird, board chair for Montreal Lake Child and Family Services, to come up with the design and location.

The solar-powered greenhouse is currently being built in Camp Hope, a recovery centre to facilitate First Nations healing.

She added the project has been in the works for about a year.

The pilings began last fall, where a couple students learned how to use a skid steer to set the base for construction, and the students started the foundation and framing about a week ago.

The greenhouse is set to be complete in approximately four weeks.

“One thing that we’ve heard from the school teacher…is that he has students who typically wouldn’t come to school until 11 o’clock or later in the afternoon, but those students are now the first students at school waiting to go,” said Rolfe.

Jobb Bird, from Montreal Lake, is one of the students working on building the greenhouse.

The grade 12 student said it feels rewarding seeing the building come to life for his community.

“It feels good for me (to) wake up every morning, something to do,” he said. “I prefer hands-on stuff. I don’t like sitting around listening.”

Aside from gaining high school credits, the students also earn apprenticeship hours, which are beneficial if they pursue the trades after they graduate.

Noel added they also get paid at the end of the building if they work their set hours. If not, they get deducted.