Adults aren’t the only ones who are contributing ideas on what to do with Qualicum Beach’s old fire hall.
The students of the Collaborative Education Alternative Program held an election and gave their ideas to Mayor Teunis Westbroek.
Thirty-two students and family members voted, and the winning idea — a movie theatre/cafe/bookstore was presented to Westbroek on Thursday.
The students said they were excited to participate after receiving a tour of the old fire hall from Town Planner Luke Sales and Fire Chief Darryl Kohse.
Shannon Cowan, co-ordinator of the election and a parent, brought the idea of holding an election to CEAP as she noticed civic responsibilities was part of the curriculum. She even managed to get official ballot boxes and polling stations for the students so they could mimic a real election.
“It gave the kids a sense of how it works,” Cowan said.
The students met for five weeks and and narrowed their 150 ideas to five through a ‘dotmocracy’, a type of democracy where one places ideas being voted upon on a wall and votes are cast by placing dots next to the ideas.
From there, the Grade 4-7 students held an election to choose a winner from three ideas: a gaming station where video games could be sold and played; an outdoor activity eco-friendly park which would engage adults and children and encourage exercise; and the movie theatre/cafe/bookstore, which would provide the children with a place to relax and watch movies opposed to traveling to Nanaimo to see a film.
“As a parent I think it’s an important way to contribute to democracy,” Cowan said. “I came from a family where people vote.”
Westbroek said it is important to get youth engaged in politics at a young age.
“I want them to get used to the idea of being in rooms and with people who make decisions for them, that they are heard and that their views and their ideas are part of the consideration for whatever decision we’re going to make,” Westbroek said. “They need to know that we listened.”
Westbroek said children often give good ideas. “They will make just as good a decision as anyone else in town,” he said.
Teachers Lesley LaCouvee and Kate Ridyard said a majority of the effort made was by the students.
“They’re our future and one of the things we strive to do is make learning really authentic,” LaCouvee said. “I think that’s what makes it memorable for them,” said Ridyard.