The Bulkley Valley School District’s redesigned curriculum was initially rolled out with grades K-9 in school year 2015/2016, with the goal of providing students with current, relevant skills that reflect the ever-changing demands of our society.
Part of B.C.’s new curriculum put an increased focus on trades and skill based opportunities for students. An example of this new form of learning can be seen in “Maker Days,” where students are encouraged to build and create. Fast becoming a valued cornerstone of the new curriculum, the results have been successful in terms of both engagement, and the development of abilities and skills in students.
Recently, a school in the community of Houston, B.C. found great success with a competition based on wooden pallets. Students were provided with surplus pallets, along with instruction to deconstruct pallets and repurpose the materials in to new items. Students were quoted as saying “it’s the most fun I have ever had in school”, and educators share the enthusiasm.
“Engagement is through the roof,” said Board Chair Les Kearns. “There are great connections being made, and the learning outcomes are positive.”
Subplots also abound in the implementation of the updated curriculum, with encouraging stories arising in unexpected ways. An example of such a story occurred during the facilitation of a woodworking program with students. A learner in the sessions had the opportunity to become a leader and share his knowledge, as he had previously completed many woodworking projects with his father at home. The boy was able to leverage his personal experience and share his knowledge with his peers, and gain experience as a sharer of knowledge.
Other areas of focus include coding and robotics, with student engagement being so high that courses cannot be offered with enough frequency to satiate demand. Engagement opportunities such as this did not exist in the previous curriculum, and boards of education are pleased with the results.
In leading up to these learning initiatives, teachers are encouraged to collaborate. Co-planning and co-teaching classes, with lessons first being exhibited and observed by peers for feedback, is the norm. The results of this approach have created powerful demonstrations where students are afforded the opportunity to view their teachers as learners as well, resulting in a lasting impression of what is to be a lifelong learner.
Feedback from educators, boards, and parents has been positive in the school district, with genuine appreciation for the opportunity to teach children transferable skills being apparent. These efforts render into increased engagement from teachers, echoing the positive attitudes and interest seen in their students.
“Bringing in the experts, putting that work into practice and making use of our own in-house experts is just the beginning,” added Kearns in speaking about educating students with practical skills. “There is long way to go, but this is limitless in its potential.”