Minister of Education Mike Bernier had a chance to see examples of the new B.C. curriculum in action when he toured W.L. Seaton secondary school Thursday morning.
Bernier is touring B.C. schools as the ministry rolls out its new curriculum, and he made stops at both Seaton and Silver Star elementary this week.
“This is a phase-in year, with the new curriculum now in draft form and rolled out for kindergarten to Grade 9 and fully implemented in September 2016,” said Bernier. “Grades 10 to 12 will begin a new-curriculum transition year in September 2016, followed by full implementation in September 2017.”
Led by principal Jackie Kersey, the Seaton tour was also attended by Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster, district superintendent Joe Rogers, Vernon School Board chairperson Kelly Smith, as well as Emily Milliken-Heape and Corbin Kelley, students with the Vernon Community School.
“We have a lot of bragging rights in this district,” said Foster. “All of the school districts are up against declining enrolment and we have been able to weather the storm with great programs like Vernon Community School and our aboriginal programs.”
First stop on Bernier’s tour was a visit to teacher Ryan Reid’s aboriginal entrepreneurship class.
“This teaches real-life skills and we’re trying to empower them,” said Reid. “They get a whole variety of experience.”
Calling the class a great example of the new curriculum in action, Bernier had the opportunity to ask questions of the students and hear their ideas for new businesses.
“If nothing else, you are learning a different respect for people in business, understanding the different things they do,” said Bernier, the Peace River South MLA and a father of five. “The aboriginal grad rates at Seaton are 90 per cent, which is way above the provincial average, kids are engaged here and they feel they are part of the learning, and that is a great success story.”
The new curriculum will keep the basics of reading, writing and math, he said, but will allow students more flexibility to pursue their interests, passions and explore innovative technology.
“With the new curriculum, you are still learning all of the subjects but in a different way,” he said “It’s not like when I was in school and you had the teacher standing there lecturing and students simply memorizing. It’s very hands-on.”
Students can learn about core subjects while doing projects related to their interests, such as music, hockey or dinosaurs. There are also more hands-on learning opportunities so students can see how classroom knowledge applies in real life situations.
The teams of teachers that developed the curriculum were formed in collaboration with the BC Teachers Federation, the Federation of Independent School Associations and the First Nations Schools Association.
“This was developed by teachers for teachers, it wasn’t a top-down change by the government,” said Bernier. “We had over 100 teachers and professionals who provided input in shaping the new curriculum.
“One of the best parts of the new curriculum is that every child learns differently and so this allows for more flexibility for the students and the teachers; it is about keeping kids in school.”
Next up was a stop in a Grade 8 class of 75 students that brings together three teachers and one learning resource teacher — of humanities, science and math — where students work as a team and then break into small groups.
“They have project-based learning,” said Kersey. “It’s very engaging for students. The reason we started it was to have a transition for kids from elementary school to high school because this way we really get to know them.
“With the minister here, we don’t do too much differently, we did not want to put on a show. While the basics are still taught, students will now have the opportunity to purse their interests in a more hand-on learning style while still keeping the core competencies.”