Oasis Skateboard Factory School is getting ready to welcome the class of 2017. An alternative high school in central Toronto, it allows young people who did not thrive in the standard high school environment, an opportunity to focus and be a success in a unique setting.
“We have terrific success rates”
Lauren Hortie is one of the award-winning teachers. Along with Craig Morrison, the visionary behind the award-winning program, their aim is to get the students engaged in their learning by doing it through something they are passionate about.
Hortie explains the Skateboard Factory grew out of observing the success of another alternative program; “Just seeing how successful students were both working through the arts and working on project-based learning where their projects went out into the real world.”
Now in their eighth year, they have expanded to 25 students. They make the most of a small space in a downtown recreation centre. Hortie describes it as “a one-room schoolhouse with a lot of sawdust.” And the mandatory five-hour school day fits between 10:30 to 15:30, another selling point according to Hortie.
She explains that instead of having english class, math class, and art class, they work on projects that are commissioned. One of the projects this year entails designing four new skateboard shapes for a local longboard shop, that’s a type of skateboard that tends to be more popular with girls.
Native SK8 Studies
From conception to completion, there is a lot of work to be done, beginning with consultations with the client, research on what are the most popular boards, presentations, design, graphics, marketing and promotion. All of which are great opportunities to hone skills in english, math and art, as well as physics and woodworking.
Native SK8 Studies is a new stream in the program, the result of an initiative of the Ontario government for Indigenous students. Last year the students designed an exaggeratedly long skateboard installation piece, that’s based on a wampum belt. It combines the integration of native art while learning about native culture.
The Toronto District School Board has 22 alternative high schools, all publicly funded. It is very supportive of what’s developing at the Skateboard Factory. “We have terrific success rates. Last semester we had a 97 per cent pass rate with previously un-attending, under-achieving youth, which is really amazing” Lortie says.
It’s really a how-to program that Hortie says can be used as a paradigm for other ventures, such as bike-repair, or cooking, or an automotive focus.