Curriculum cultivates critical thinking

Learning has entered a new dimension at Salmon Arm Secondary School’s Jackson campus

Jeffrey Belado places photos on a display board for a project about the youth 180 youth ministry

Learning has entered a new dimension at Salmon Arm Secondary School’s Jackson campus.

And, like many new endeavours, some students and parents are concerned about the program and its impact on the quality of education.

Rather than sitting at their desks with a teacher directing from the front of the room, the 53 students in the “InspirED” class are honing critical, creative thinking and communication skills, developing a personal identity and more.

“We’re trying to create a curriculum based on those core competencies,” says Alan Corbett, one of the two InspirED teachers, noting the class meets for half a day every school day of the school year. “In the work place, those are the required competencies: can you collaborate in group or can you work toward a deadline?”

Divided into groups of four, the Grade 9/10 students have interviewed members of 13 area service clubs and are creating videos of their encounters, which they will show in a Jan. 31 screening at the Salmar Classic Theatre.

Students practised interviewing with their peers and adults in the school before meeting people who are doing what they have a passion for and giving back to the community.

“They are now creating posters, writing story lines and editing their videos,” he says. “They are running into all sorts of technical difficulties – real world problems; one of the interviewees was out of country so they had to switch focus.”

In the process of creating and promoting their videos, the students get credit for social science, English and math, and are learning real-world skills that will help prepare them for life and a career after graduation.

“We’re trying to break away from the old ways of doing things and make it work for everyone,” he says of the province’s new curriculum, which shifts the focus away from memorizing and regurgitating material. “It’s innovative, has lots of challenges and can be very stressful, but when we get positive comments from parents, and from kids saying they couldn’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things, it’s worth it.”

And it can sometimes take students a while to get comfortable with the new process, says Corbett, noting they will look through some other classroom door at students sitting at their desks, in classes that are following the old curriculum.

“The biggest problem last year was there were students in other classes learning the old way, so they’re freaking out saying ‘we’re missing out, we’re not getting what they’re getting,” says Corbett. “One kid said ‘when are we going to do social studies?’ They had no idea they had been working on social studies.”

Corbett says some parents also aired their concerns, wondering why their kids don’t have homework or why they aren’t studying for exams.

Students do get a final grade at the end of the year, but otherwise there are no written tests to stress them out – just the real-life stressors related to their project.

“We’re to empower the students to learn at their own pace and learn about subjects that appeal to them or fascinate them, Corbett says. “When parents finally get the gist of what’s happening and hear their kids talking about school in a positive way, they get it.”

The class is made up of many different types of students, some with high anxiety or learning disabilities, along with academics and Corbett says he and Hollatz want to show that this kind of learning can benefit everybody.

“We focus on the class as a community of learners; we work hard to break down the social barriers and they learn all the core courses that they need,” he says, “and they learn the whole is more important than the one.”

The community can show support by attending the video showing at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Salmar Classic. Take along a non-perishable item for the food bank.


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