Shad Valley students learn the art (and science) of innovation

Shad Dalhousie brings bright high school students to Halifax

- August 16, 2012

Shad students Megan Llewellyn and Kathleen Woo show off their girls' fitness fashion. (Ryan McNutt photo)
Shad students Megan Llewellyn and Kathleen Woo show off their girls' fitness fashion. (Ryan McNutt photo)

It’s four weeks that can change a life – or, at the very least, focus a student’s passions and inspire their path ahead.

For more than 30 years, Shad Valley has been providing high school students across Canada an experience that challenges and excites them. Students selected for the camps, held across the country, get a hands-on learning experience in the sciences, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship.

“They have lectures in the morning and seminars in the afternoon, and we have guest speakers from the community as well as researchers,” explains Jenny Baechler, who is the program coordinator for Shad Dalhousie. “The goal is to balance all the different elements of the curriculum.”

Shad solutions

At the camp’s closing Open House last month, students showed off their work to family and friends. Each team was tasked with coming up with a product, aimed at kids, that would help combat childhood obesity. The students conducted research, built prototypes and put together business plans – the latter of which, several students said, was something new and particularly rewarding for them.

One team showed off their bamboo and spandex blend exercise fashion, designed for young girls.

“In our research, we found that girls between the ages of seven and 12 had a decrease in the amount of physical activity, and a higher rate of dropping out of sports,” explained Megan Llewellyn, a student from PEI. “We got the idea to make a shirt that would help girls feel for comfortable when they’re exercising – especially if they’ve gained weight while they’ve grown.”

Another group demonstrated its kid-friendly snow shovel: a smaller head size, a fun shape-making stamp, and handles that change colour when the shovel is being held properly.

“The problem is that kids shovels are often adult shovels, just smaller,” explained Afroza Damji, from Toronto. “But that isn’t what they need.”

Giving back to Shad

Helping the students figure out their devices and business plans were a group of Shad staffers, many of who are current university students. They also lead the attendees on a variety of day trips and other adventures: camping in Cape Breton, hiking at Cape Split and much more.

“[Shad] changed the way I saw myself,” says Dal psychology student Marissa Levy, who went through the program when she was in high school. “That experience carried with me through university, and I want to give others that same experience.”

Taylor Quinn, a Dal IDS and anthropology student, and another Shad alum, agrees.

“For me, Shad was about growing as a leader, a person and a team member. That’s what great about Shad: it’s facilitating their growth in those areas, getting them to be more comfortable with who they are.”


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