When Mrs. Ayers assigned a heritage project to her Aspen Park Elementary Grade 4/5 class, Nathan Cox immediately knew what his topic was going to be.
“I actually came into this year thinking if I had a chance to do a project I wanted to do something on the Comox fire department,” said the 11-year-old Grade 5 student. “I was always interested in the fire department when I was little and my dad used to be [with] the Tofino Fire Department.”
Nathan’s project caught the eyes of the judges at the Vancouver Island North Regional Heritage Fair in Alberni. His Comox Fire Rescue History project won the 2018 Fire Chief Award.
Nathan said he spent “about a month or two” working on his project.
“I went on the internet, and I went to the fire hall, for research,” he said. “I did all my research away from class.”
He said the project was a learning experience for him.
“I learned that they started in 1942 with 14 members – I was actually surprised that they had that many at the start. And they had two trucks – one was a pumper and one was a fire truck.
“In 1942 there was no formal training. There was just a hose on the back of a fire engine and they’d squirt water. ”
He also learned a bit more about firefighting in general.
“It’s more than just putting out fires. They also do auto extrication, and ambulance assist,” he said.
Nathan was one of five Aspen Park Elementary students whose projects were exhibited at the North Regional Heritage Fair, and one of two category winners from the Comox Valley.
His classmate, Phoenix Gendron, won a Community History Award for his project, Early Cumberland Mining.
“It was mainly about the history of Cumberland, and the history of the Chinese and Japanese culture, and the mining industry… and the people that contributed to that history,” said Ayers.
Matous Karas received an honour medal in the Grade 3/4 age group for his project, The Swedish Connection.
Kaija Hendry’s project was on the history of Emily Carr, while Genevieve Savard chose her own family history as her topic.
“Comox does an enquiry fair, and it can be on any subject, but I wanted my students to focus on the history of the Comox Valley,” said Ayers, who moved to the Comox Valley from the Lower Mainland for this school year.
She had 25 students complete projects for her class and said the five that were chosen to represent Aspen Park at the North Island Regional Heritage Fair really stood out.
“[They were judged] mainly on the knowledge of their subjects, their enthusiasm, their interest, and their independence in completing the project,” she said. “They were really enthusiastic, and they were really interested in taking it to the next level, and going to Port Alberni. Those five showed a real interest in moving on.”
Some of the category winners from the regional fair will be eligible for the provincial heritage fair next month, but Nathan has not yet heard whether he will be among the regional winners chosen.
“I sure hope I get to go,” he said. “The regional one was super fun, and we got to drive a crane. So maybe I’ll get to drive, like, a monster truck at provincials.”
Nathan said he is still torn between a career as a firefighter, or a police officer. He said if he has a chance to enter the heritage fair again next year, he would like to do a project on the history of the Comox Valley RCMP.