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Students a driving force behind new program at Patrick Fogarty

New specialist high-skills major will focus on environment; 'A lot of the impetus came from the student voice,' teacher says
2021-03-02 PF environment SHSM
Logo for the new specialist high-skills major at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School, focusing on the environment.

Local high school students will have an opportunity to immerse themselves in environmental education thanks to a new program.

Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School is offering a specialist high-skills major (SHSM) focusing on the environment, adding to its existing construction, leadership, and hospitality and tourism SHSMs.

Staff, students and alumni have been instrumental in the creation of the new program. Two focus groups were held — one to determine details of the program and another to develop a logo for branding.

As a result, the school is calling the environment SHSM Terra Sancta.

A SHSM is available to students in grades 11 and 12 and allows them to receive focused instruction in a specific area of study, while they complete their regular curriculum. When they graduate, their diplomas will have a red seal that indicates their completion of the major.

“Our focus in our particular SHSM is the environment, so we wanted to gear our certifications toward agriculture, innovation, wildlife and forestation,” said teacher Bill Bazinet, who has been working on the program with colleague Jeff Cole. “We have some really interesting natural habitats in our vicinity.”

The focus will not only be local. The goal is to take a trip to Israel in the spring of 2023 so students can see, first-hand, that country’s environmental efforts. They’ll learn about a range of topics, including desalinization, fishery programs and the solar industry.

Bazinet isn’t concerned about the program’s chance of success and its popularity among students.

“A lot of the impetus came from the student voice in the first place,” he said. “The younger we go into the age brackets of students, the more in tune and impassioned these kids are about the environment.”

“It’s a real, legitimate, grassroots approach to our program because it comes from the youth,” he added.

It will also help students narrow down the areas of study they want to pursue after high school, he said.

“‘The environment’ is a very vague term. It includes so much,” Bazinet said, noting there are opportunities for study and employment in natural resources, innovation and technology, and renewable energy, to name a few.

The SHSM will also educate students on “practical ways that they can live their day-to-day lives that have a positive impact on the environment,” he said.

Some of the programming will start with Cole’s environmental science class during summer school. It will be available on a broader scale in the fall.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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