Program brings rural development into the classroom
Twenty Memorial University teacher interns have recently returned from their field placements with Regional Economic Development and Schools (REDAS), a program which places interns in rural schools to link economic development to the classroom.
The interns partnered with Regional Economic Development Boards in their area to enhance their knowledge of how their discipline connects to the future economy of the communities. Topics developed in the classroom by interns in the past have ranged from “virtual mine tours” to “the economics of farming.”
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has invested $155,090 in the REDAS initiative.
“Through REDAS, economic development has been brought into the classrooms of rural communities across our province, helping students and teachers to understand the economic and entrepreneurial opportunities in our province,” said John Efford, minister of Natural Resources. “This initiative helps students to learn about, and capitalize on, the growing industries in our province, such as tourism, manufacturing and technology.”
REDAS began as a pilot project in 1999 with the development of learning modules for existing teachers to reflect regional economic development opportunities and challenges. Approximately 70 modules were developed on sectors such as aquaculture, oil and gas and the high-tech end of the fishery. Currently the program is run out of the Faculty of Education at Memorial.
“Through this unique initiative, interns gain invaluable work and learning experiences, and engage students in rural areas in the industries that have the strongest potential for development,” said Phyllis Reardon, project director, REDAS. “An added benefit for the interns now is that they also receive three university credits through their six-week placements in rural communities.”
REDAS has evolved into a teacher internship program, where interns focus part of their placements on connecting economic opportunities to their teachable subject areas. They are on Memorial University’s St. John’s campus this week to deliver presentations on what they taught, and on what they learned.
“The REDAS program was a valuable experience for me, both as a student and as a teacher. Seeing students become excited about the opportunities that their community and their province had to offer made me excited as an educator and as a Newfoundlander,” said Samantha Abbott, who did her placement in Grey River, a community of just over 200 people on the south coast of the province. “This program really opened my eyes to the issues facing our economy and helped me realize my role as an educator of these young people.”
ACOA is providing funding for this initiative under the Business Development Program, which offers non-commercial investments to support the promotion of entrepreneurship, trade, marketing and education through industry, community, youth and business associations.