Monday, 10 November 2014

Not Just Horsing Around: Finding New Electives in Hudsons Hope

Finding new and engaging electives can be a challenge for small secondary schools. Working with your communities strengths and interests can help find options. The K - 12 school at Hudsons Hope has a very small secondary population - less than 30 students in grades 10 - 12 . As a consequence the range of elective options can be severely limited and may not appeal to everyone. Principal Derrek Beam, in coordination with teacher Liza Rhymer, and with the assistance and cooperation of many community members, have found a creative and innovative solution to this challenge through the development and implementation of an Equine Studies curriculum.

Equine Studies 10 - 12 is a four credit Board Authority Authorized  course adapted from an Alberta Green Cert program. Units of study include identifying horse breeds and behavior, how to care for and handle horses and practical hands on experience working with and around these marvelous animals. Getting student and community buy in has been no problem. Nine students are enrolled and the community has been incredibly generous with donations or loans of animals, facilities and expertise. I recently attended a "hands on" session and it was great to see the smiles on everyone's faces from the students to the two certified teachers in the arena, to all the community members who had either brought horses or were just there to lend support.

That the community has an indoor riding facility available just minutes from the school is certainly a plus, but after watching the teachers and students interact with the horses, I have a feeling that where the class is held is secondary to what the class is imparting to everyone involved. One community volunteer commented that it was wonderful to see so many folks utilizing the facility, that the parking lot hadn't seen so much activity in a long time. The level of experience amongst the students ranges from already comfortable in the saddle to raw beginner, but it was quite apparent that both the horses and their riders were appreciative of the exercise.  One student commented that it would be great if all her classes could be taught this way, and the teachers involved  readily admitted that working with kids and horses was a fantastic learning and teaching experience for all.

Equine Studies is an example of innovative practice meeting district and provincial goals for making learning practical, personal and hands on.  Plans are already underway to see if the program can be offered in other schools and centers. Connecting students with animals has certainly met the district's goal of ensuring students are more engaged in their studies, and is just another way that SD 60 is working to make sure that education matters. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Contributions Big And Small

Its no accident that SD 60's number one goal is social responsibility. We want all our students to develop into good citizens, willing to contribute and give back to their community to help build a better future for all. Its great when community partners model that same spirit by making contributions to the district that work for the benefit of our students. Such contributions come in all sizes, and all are welcomed.

For example, Moose FM has for the past two years contributed towards the establishment of a scholarship to support students hoping to follow a career in music or the performing arts. Our local country radio station 100.1 Moose FM is a keen supporter of local music and as such has also been a supporter of the district band program. Their example is just one of the many different ways that local businesses contribute to enhancing programs at our community schools.

On a slightly larger scale, the district was recently pleased to accept a donation of over $74,000 earmarked for refreshing the district's shop equipment from Project Shop Class, an initiative of the Construction  Foundation of British Columbia. Generously supported by corporate partners such as Shell Canada, Project Shop Class is an effort to help enhance the training experience offered in middle and secondary school shop classes. The funds will be used to purchase new equipment for shops across the district, benefiting hundreds of students. The assistance is timely, and right in line with the provincial government's Skills for Jobs Blueprint that recently saw the job fair program Find Your Fit come to Fort St John.

Our district motto is "Together We Learn". Whether its a local business making a contribution to promote programs in music and performing arts, or large corporate partners helping to bring upgrades to shop programs that will promote careers in the trades, its important that we all work together in enhancing learning opportunities for students. Making positive contributions to our communities models social responsibility, demonstrates good corporate citizenship and helps our students gain skills they can use to succeed in life.