Most transformation programs satisfy themselves with shifting the same old furniture about in the same old room. But real transformation requires that we redesign the room itself. Perhaps even blow up the old room. It requires that we change the thinking behind our thinking.
About a year ago, Rick Hansen Secondary School in the Abbotsford School District set out to recalibrate to a new normal. With a bold vision and a staff filled with innovators and risk takers, Principal David deWit lead his community around the creation of a School of Science and Business. His staff imagined a Secondary School where no teacher worked in isolation and course
offerings were inquiry based and interdisciplinary; they imagined a school where all stakeholders were engaged in problem solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration while applying the skills they learn to real world issues and paradigms; they imagined a community that was grounded in digital literacy where all students could present their mosaic of learning through digital portfolios; they imagined a place where all learning was focused upon the values of personal leadership, difference making, equity and inclusion.
Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business is now completing its first year in its redesign. The four year plan started this year with the grade nine cohort. The core of their learning experience is underpinned by a philosophy of social innovation, character development and personalized learning through Project Based Learning. One need only look at what Dennis Neufeld is doing in his English class or the recent visit students made to the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre. As word of the
work the Rick Hansen staff are doing spreads across the province, the school is being visited by teachers and administrators interested in seeing our grade nine students and teachers in action as they embark upon an interdisciplinary PBL approach to learning where math, English, science and
digital literacy are taught in unison, not isolation. Students will advance through the years building on their collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills. In grade 11 they will have the unique opportunity to choose one of our two Senior Schools: the School of Business or the School of Science. As David makes clear, “we are now expecting our students to discover the applications of their knowledge to solve real world problems and demonstrate that learning to a community that is engaged in finding the solutions.”
As the staff looks to the future and develops learning opportunities of distinction in grades 10 through to 12, attention is also being directed towards nurturing young scientists in the elementary feeder schools. In partnership with Science World, Rick Hansen Secondary is thrilled to be hosting The Super Science Club. This is an 8 week after-school program that provides science and technology activities to grade 5 students in two feeder schools: Dave Kandal Elementary School and Blue Jay Elementary School.
Students will learn about reflection/refraction, density, earthquakes, electricity and decomposition. Each lesson focuses on a different topic and consists of an interactive introduction with live demonstrations, one on one interaction with program facilitators and hands-on activities like building rockets, kaleidoscopes and lava lamps.
Jacqui Hall, Vice Principal at Rick Hansen, tells me that students are excited about the program and are having a great time: “The sessions are designed to help students make connections between their lives and the impact their choices have on the environment. As they leave, we ask them how it’s going and responses vary from “My favourite part is learning new things and the experiments” and “I like making the projects.” Every student leaves smiling and proud of the project they created”
The goal of this program is very much the goal of the school: to inspire children to develop a long-
term interest in science and technology. As Rick Hansen Secondary School builds up, it will also continue to build an even sturdier foundation: next year Rick Hansen Secondary
School is hoping to offer multiple sessions so grade 5 students from all of their feeder schools have an opportunity to participate in The Super Science Club.
Reflecting upon the Super Science Club, what resonates with me is that we’re helping these young students find pleasure in learning by giving them the freedom to explore what they love. We are giving them choice in how they’ll go about their learning and how they’ll demonstrate their knowledge. We are creating conditions in which these students can produce original work and show off that work. Give students and teachers time to tinker, make school spaces inviting and recalibrating to a new normal becomes more than a catch phrase.