“When I did not feel like coming to school, I would remember my project and come anyway. It was literally the only reason I got out of bed,” says a woodworking student in the Calgary Board of Education’s Discovering Choices program.

A project with enough power to pull an already hesitant learner from the comfort of their own sheets – that’s not something you hear about everyday. But that’s exactly the impact EducationMatters donors made with their support of a new woodworking shop for Discovering Choices students.

Discovering Choices is an outreach program for students facing challenging personal or family situations who find that regular high school programming and resources do not meet their needs. To encourage students to complete their high school diploma, Discovering Choices is offered at 4 outreach centres across Calgary. Students attend the outreach centres to complete high school credits and to make use of other services such as career counselling, conflict resolution training, time management resources, and study skills assistance.

The new woodworking shop offers students an alternative way to earn high school credit, which can be a welcome break for many students. It’s also an opportunity to encourage hands-on learning and for students to build positive relationships with staff and other students.

“The woodshop has had a tremendous impact on student confidence, engagement, and self esteem,” says one teacher.

“It engages students on a different academic level and provides a break from written work. Students who take on woodworking projects learn to plan, engage in problem solving, and are involved in social interactions.”

Participants create connections to their community by building projects to display in the school, which helps to beautify the space and connect students to their classrooms. They also build instruments for the school which are used in music therapy programming and in drumming classes.

And just because the woodshop may be a welcome break from the traditional classroom for many students, it doesn’t mean there aren’t crossovers. The woodshop offers students a chance to experience their more traditional coursework in new ways.

As another teacher puts it, “Students who are hesitant to engage in a math course embrace the opportunity to work with our teacher in the woodshop. The coordinated effort of the math and woodshop teachers has provided students who would otherwise shy away from tasks involving math calculations to challenge themselves and improve math skill while completing their woodworking projects.”

As the program moves into its second year, the success is clear. Not only is there a growing list of students waiting to participate in the wood shop, but the students who are already working in the shop are attending school more often and completing high school credits more quickly than in the past.

As more students are given the opportunity to learn in the woodshop, the connections students build to their school, their teachers, and their learning continue to grow.

We think that’s worth getting out of bed for.