Local high school students enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major program are building doghouses that will be sent to house dogs on First Nations reserves.
The project, now in its fifth year, is a partnership between the Upper Grand District School Board, the Ontario Veterinary College and various First Nations communities who will receive the doghouses, said Charles Benyair, SHSM/technological education curriculum lead at the school board.
Students at College Heights and GCVI are building a total of 25 doghouses to help provide shelter for the dogs and assist with animal management efforts on reserves.
“A lot of these dogs are working dogs that perform different functions that are traditional on these reserves,” said Benyair. “We are helping with the partnership by giving the dogs some added shelter and relief from the elements and promoting general animal welfare to support those on the reservation that may not have the needs to do that.
Students are involved in the planning and building of the doghouses, said John Erickson, a GCVI teacher for the SHSM construction program.
Erickson said elders from the First Nations partner communities have come in to speak to the students about animal management on the reserves.
“It’s a place for their dog to stay warm, but it also means the cost that are covered with this means they don’t have to put out. They can use that money for other beneficial areas like vaccinations and medicines,” said Erickson.
“(The elders) come in and speak with the kids and give them an overview of how this is assisting with their program and the positive impact they have,” said Benyair.
The students get a lot more out of the project than simply building a dog house, said Benyair. The school board’s focus is to build projects for kids to learn the skills they need while gaining real-life experiences.
“It’s an effort to build community partnerships and relationships with Indigenous communities as well as giving back to the community,” he said.
About eight students would work together on each doghouse, said Grade 12-Plus student Calvin Horn.
Each doghouse requires the four walls, roof, insulation and shingles.
Horn said it was interesting hearing from the First Nation elders on how the doghouses will be used.
“It’s just fun to be able to do different projects like this and see them go out to the community,” said Horn.
This year, the project has added a partnership with Ontario Veterinary College.
“For the first four years we were building the houses and transporting them to different reserves and this year we decided to partner with the OVC so we can paint them and send a little bit of a brighter product to the community,” said Benyair.
Erickson said the doghouses were built by the students in the construction program, but the painting was opened up to include the school’s art students, as well as students in the Indigenous studies program.