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April 24, 2018
Boat bldg 1-website

Workshop connecting Mount students with youth in care


“It is these relationships built over time in safe spaces that form the foundation of all youth work. I am able to discuss these ideas in the university classroom, but the ideal way to learn of these spaces, is to experience them in person.”  

-- Shane Theunissen, Assistant Professor, Child and Youth Study

Students at Mount Saint Vincent University are involved in a unique experiential learning opportunity that will see them test the waters of Halifax Harbour this week.

Child and Youth Study assistant professor Shane Theunissen is leading a boat building program that is connecting undergraduate students with youth at HomeBridge Youth Society. HomeBridge provides residential care, educational support and therapeutic programming to youth in care aged 12 to 18. 

The idea is to help the Mount Child and Youth Study students – whose future careers will be dedicated to supporting children and youth – learn how to build safe spaces enabling supportive interactions with youth in care, while also providing a meaningful recreational opportunity for the youth themselves. “In this way, there’s a tangible outcome for everybody. It’s about skill development on both sides,” noted Shane.

"We are very excited about this partnership as it not only creates a meaningful learning experience for the students of Bridges for Learning, but also allows us to help shape the youth care professionals of tomorrow," said Ernie Hilton, Executive Director at HomeBridge.

As a partner in the project, Eamonn Doorly, Marine Conservation Assistant at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, will teach the finer points of boat building. In the end, with his help, the group will construct a 12 foot long “Bevin’s Skiff”, a traditional wooden row boat that can be readily assembled in a short period of time.

A kit provides the major pieces of the boat. Each day, participants will make a plan for the parts of the build they will accomplish that day. Of course, there will be hands on opportunity to learn how to use certain tools along the way as well.

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Then on Wednesday, April 25, the group will test the strength of their efforts when they launch their boat in Halifax Harbour. The hope is they will take it for a successful spin, rowing it briefly around the part of the harbour near the museum.

In their future careers, many Mount Child & Youth study graduates may be responsible for designing and implementing recreational programming for youth. “While consumptive experiences such as watching movies, laser tag, and video gaming are easy programming choices, they do little to instill a sense of purpose and value in the life of a youth,” says Shane. 

“The purpose of this project is to instill within future youth workers the value of activities that are not only mechanisms for building mediative and caring spaces, but also allow for skill development that can have significant impact on youth and caregiver perceptions on self-esteem, belonging, and self-actualization.”

“It is these relationships built over time in safe spaces that form the foundation of all youth work. I am able to discuss these ideas in the university classroom, but the ideal way to learn of these spaces, is to experience them in person.”