Island students go back in time to honour Canada

Students at Charlottetown Rural High School are building two canoes to participate in a national initiative next year to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday by paddling in historic voyageur canoes.

Charlottetown students building canoes, paddling to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary

Emmery Chandler (right) and Philip Pierlot of Charlottetown Rural High School are putting the finishing touches on a canoe that will be part of a nation-wide initiative celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary next summer. (CBC)

A group of Charlottetown students are planning to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday next year the old-fashioned way — in a canoe.

The Charlottetown Rural High School students are part of a national initiative by the Canadian Voyageur Brigade Society. The initiative invites groups across the country to paddle rivers in each province beginning April 1, 2017, to honour Canada's 150th year in Confederation. The Charlottetown students are representing the Island and doing their part by paddling down one of the province's river. 

Philip Pierlot, one of the teachers leading the project, said one canoe is expected to be completed next month and another one by next summer. The project is not for class credit but rather an extra-curricular student activity. 

"They're here because they wanted to do it," he said.

Rideau Canal next?

After paddling on the Island, the groups might join other groups in New Brunswick next summer. If money, school approval and resources are available, the students might join a larger group of brigades planning to paddle down the Rideau Canal to Parliament Hill in August 2017.

The 20-foot, wooden voyageur canoes are reminiscent of the same type used by explorers and trappers in the 1800s.

Besides the canoes, students are also making their own paddles. They will keep the paddles as a memento of the event.

Emmery Chandler, a Grade 11 student, got involved because of her passion for canoeing. But she is hoping the experience will lead to new and stronger friendships.

'A great experience'

"It's a great experience. You get close to everyone you're working with and you learn things about them you didn't know," she said. "And, you're going to have this great opportunity to paddle later on for a few days and you'll get even closer and make even better friends."

For Pierlot, students building character and learning how to work together is as important as building canoes.

"There's more communication, more connection, more learning per minute or half-hour or hour you spend with kids in this kind of context than you really can achieve in the classroom," he said.

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown