News / Ottawa

Teachers, students to barter goods for knowledge at new trade school

A new school set to arrive in Ottawa in January aims to see its students trading everything from old blenders to iPods with their teachers in exchange for lessons.

"It's a free form school that runs on barter. In lieu of a participation fee, teachers will come up with a list of things they want or need," said Shirley Manh, who plans to start the Trade School Co-op Ottawa on a $1,000 award from non-profit Awesome Ottawa.

Classes will run the gamut of interests, Manh said. "There could be a class on how to bake bread. It's a skill a lot of people used to have but don't anymore. I imagine there are going to be a lot of creative classes," she said. "It's about getting people to recognize the capacity that lies in themselves and the community and all the talents they have to share."

With a barter school already established in Toronto, Manh was driven to start her own after spending a year working to avoid buying anything brand new.  "I thought about how much stuff I owned," she said. "I made my own toothpaste and household cleaning products. Toothpaste is just baking soda, a bit of water and sweetener. I had to make it three times before I got it right."

The experiment, Manh said, connected her with Toronto's Shanon Simmons, aka. the Barter Babe, who gave up her job to barter her expertise for items she needs. It also made her more aware of different ways of exchanging goods and services arising from the global recession.

"I can't say it's the only thing affecting people to think of new ways to acquire goods and services," Manh said of the recession.  "Craigslist, Kijiji and ride shares are becoming really popular. People want a connection to where their money is going."

Classes will run roughly 90 minutes and could be a one-off or part of a series, she said. "Most of the budget is going toward making sure there is space for trade school classes."

"It would be great to get Shannon Simmons to come to Ottawa and speak about an alternative financial system."

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