Bringing Variety to the Rural School Experience

Students in rural schools can miss out on a number of things in terms of course offerings and opportunities. There are specialty programs in the city that attract a number of rural students to spend time in Whitehorse.

Our daughter, for instance, spent half of her Grade 11 year attending the Music Arts and Drama (MAD) program at the Wood Street Centre. Other Dawson students have done that, as well as taking in the Experiential Science program there.

The sheer number of students and the availability of facilities in the capital make it easier and more cost-effective to run those kinds of programs there.

But there are ways to overcome the rural deficit.

For the last 14 years, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture has been running its Youth Art Enrichment program in early November. This is a week-long program focussed on developing skills in a number of art-related areas: drama, animation, painting, collage, carving and printmaking.

There are usually four intensive workshops, followed by a time to showcase all the work at the end of the week. Last year’s workshops involved 36 students from all over the territory.

Following this example, but with lots more funding and a focus on rural high schools, is the Rural Experiential Model (REM), which wrapped up its third fall session in Dawson in late September.

The plan is to bring rural high school students from Grades 10 through 12 together to participate in a range of activities that might not fit into their regular curriculum offerings.

The fall session is early enough in the school year to include outdoor activities. A spring session happens late enough in May to offer the same possibilities.

This year 22 session leaders offered 13 daytime workshops. These were Ancestral Technologies/On-the-Land; Archery & Coaching; Culinary Arts; Dance and Drama; First Nations Art (Design and Carving); Gold Rush (Past, Present, and Future); Hair and Esthetics; Mountain Biking: Riding and Repair; Robotics; Science: Let’s Do It!; Social Media; and Wood Shop (framing a building).

Students signed up to spend the week in one of these sessions.

The evenings were crammed with a combination of 26 different activities, allowing for free choice, including archery, Arctic Sports, Arctic Winter Games prep, writing games, firefighter for a night, sports activities in the school gym, a mini-med school, RCMP for a night, a geology workshop, yoga, Zumba, a jam session, vet for a night and paramedic for a night. There was also a dance on Friday night.

Dawson works well as a host for both of these programs, with instructional space available in the Robert Service School (for the REM) as well as the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, the Odd Fellows Hall, the Confluence Gallery at the Yukon School of Visual Arts, the Yukon Order of Pioneers Hall and several other possibilities.

It seems likely that more of these sessions will take place here in future.

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