Goats ahoy! Highschool college students construct pirate ship for Oshawa Zoo goats

Students from Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa have designed and built a ship-themed playground and shelter for the goats at the Oshawa Zoo. June 8, 2022

Goats that call the Oshawa Zoo home now have their very own pirate ship to run and climb on, built by students from a nearby high school.

This is the second time students from the Specialist High Skill Major (SHSM) construction program at Maxwell Heights Secondary School have built a structure for the zoo — in 2019 teens created an Australia-themed kangaroo shelter.

“They absolutely loved the experience,” says Matt Gordon, a construction and woodworking teacher at the school. “As we went along it became more and more engaging … I had students asking to come in every day to build the ship.”

The project took about six months from start to finish and the ship was installed at the zoo June 8.

“This is designed to keep goats entertained, goats really need entertainment,” says Oshawa Zoo director Alan Connell.

Why a pirate ship? Connell says it was an obvious choice, because goats are known for mischief and mayhem.

“Goats get into all kinds of trouble,” he says with a smile.

The Oshawa Zoo is home to more than 40 species of animals including goats, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, donkeys, lemurs, camels, cavies and llamas.

The zoo has been thriving during the pandemic, because it offers a large outdoor space that people can safely explore. Connell says there has even been an uptick from people outside Durham visiting.

Maxwell Heights introduced the SHSM construction program in 2019.

Gordon says the Oshawa Zoo structures are an example of how students in the program are tackling real projects in their community.

“It gives them a good sense of how a real life job would be in the trades — working with a client, the design stage, the building stage, the timeline,” he explains

SHSM programs let Grades 11 and 12 students focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements for a high school diploma — it gives them a head start in the transition to college, university, an apprenticeship or a job.

Ontario is facing a major shortage of skilled trades workers — the provincial government estimates there will be a shortage of 350,000 people required for skilled trades by 2025.

Gordon is hopeful that shining a light on programs like the construction SHSM will encourage more young people to pursue these careers.

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