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.