The Energetic Learning Campus: Three Integrations

 

The ELC opens in September 2011 as a public school campus of North Peace Senior Secondary School serving 160 students in Grade 10. This article describes ELC’s origins and design principles, emphasizing three key integrations that cut against the grain of conventional school structures and practices.

Based on feedback from the district’s “Today and Tomorrow” conversations, the ELC design will emphasize the creation of conditions where students and teachers can work and learn effectively. Students will encounter a personalized, hands-on approach to learning at the school and with local businesses and agencies. The ELC teacher team has designed projects based on the curriculum and will work together to meet the needs for all ELC students. The ELC will foster student engagement by knowing students well, tapping into student experience and interests, and building a strong sense of community through an advisory program. All of the teachers will have shared preparation time where they will have the chance to reflect on and refine their day-to-day practice. This weekly shared-time will provide the occasion for powerful and productive discussion of the issues and needs that teachers identify in their work.

Three Key Integrations
For over 75 years the North American high school has followed three critical “operating instructions” that are so ingrained in the culture by now as to seem natural:
•    Segregate students by class, race, gender, language ability, or perceived academic ability.
•    Separate academic from technical teaching and learning.
•    Isolate adolescents from the adult world they are about to enter.

The ELC will integrate students, integrate the curriculum, and integrate school with the world beyond.

Connecting School and Community
The ELC learning environment will extend to the community. Beyond extensive field projects as part of regular classes, each student will have a chance to connect with community members through project research and presentations. The students will also have a chance to become tutors or mentors for younger elementary students in SD 60. The ELC goal is to involve the community as much as possible.

Integrating Students
Admission to the ELC is non-selective  – a commitment that extends to special education students. The belief here is that diversified grouping benefits students at both ends of the academic spectrum. It doesn’t label them as dumb or smart, and it is made possible by the multiple entry points that projects allow. This approach is challenging, but the ELC team is committed to it. In practice, the diversified grouping of students leads to the individualized learning model that allows teachers to pull aside those who need extra assistance—or an additional challenge. Students will work from where they are and move forward to success.

Integrating Subjects – Linking Hands and Minds
All ELC students will have the use of technology to engage in scientific, mathematical, literary, historical, and artistic pursuits. When teachers plan curriculum, they refer both to the provincial curriculum standards and 21st Century workplace standards. Assessment will be performance-based: students develop projects, solve problems, build things, and present findings to community panels.

The academic disciplines are integrated too. Students of ELC will have all core academic subjects integrated into their projects. Each student will have a math teacher, a science teacher and a humanities teacher. All teachers share responsibility for all 160 students during the day, giving them the flexibility to organize instructional time as needed and the opportunity to know their students well.

There will be 6 themes of integrated projects throughout the 2011 – 2012 school year. Students will have the opportunity to design, build and create projects that tap into their passions. The project possibilities are endless – robots, a crime scene exhibition linking art history and DNA analysis, development of a museum exhibit as seen from the perspectives of various cultures, original plays, magazines, talk show, videos and documentary films. The list goes on and on, and everyone is involved.

ELC will hold 6 Presentations of Learning throughout the year, and a final presentation at the end of the year. The campus will host school-wide exhibitions. The teachers see exhibitions and presentations of learning as a powerful way to achieve personalization, encourage student ownership, foster family involvement, witness emerging community standards, achieve “authenticity”—and, significantly, stimulate teacher learning and growth.

Please check the ELC website for more information and updates:  Click here

Click here to watch a short video about the origins of the campus.

Sheldon Steele

August, 2011

About Larry Espe

Superintendent of Schools
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