Many students across B.C. take up dance, music or theatre as a hobby or passion outside of school, but few of them — or their instructors for that matter — realize they could be receiving high school credits for their work.
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is looking to address this with a proposed suite of online courses, delivered through a partnership with Coilean Arts Inc., which would go hand-in-hand with students’ extracurricular performing arts projects.
Created by Will Cullen, a former Pleasant Valley Secondary student who went on to study theatre in Glasgow after graduation, some of the courses are designed to be supported by participation in a club or studio setting, while others are a fully-contained online study of performing arts theory. Cullen was supported in creating these courses by a retired teacher to ensure they fell in line with curriculum standards.
The courses would be delivered through the district’s Educational Outreach Program, which already provides online learning options for many students. It is noted in the proposal, however, that very few — if any — online performing arts courses exist for high school credit in the province.
On this note, Educational Outreach Program principal Reid Findlay writes in his recommendation: “There is a great opportunity for School District No. 83 to meet that need, especially given the BC Ministry of Education has added several new performing arts courses to the curriculum.”
These courses are designed to fall in line with B.C.’s renewed curriculum standards, and while full provincial approval is still needed for the senior-level courses, it is likely the Grade 10 versions will start up quickly after receiving board of education approval.
There is a push to attempt to implement the full run of courses within the district as a sort of test-run, though there may be hurdles to jump through in regards to circumventing the provincial curriculum. This local initiative within School District 83 is a little ahead of the ministry’s upcoming curriculum changes, which may give it a privileged position as a pilot project.
Findlay writes in his recommendation: “We are very much ahead of the curve with the changes that are being planned provincially with the performing arts curriculum, and we are looking for some creative license for innovation from the Ministry.”
Figures were provided showing that, in the previous school year, the district Educational Outreach Program worked with more than 70 students in the North Okanagan-Shuswap district who could have actively benefitted from these course offerings.
Before approving the proposal, trustee Mike McKay had several questions for Findlay to ensure this program was still sustainable if distance learning funding was changed, as is being currently considered at the provincial level.
Findlay assured McKay and the board that there was no commitments to the external contractor except through activation of a student. This when the student completes five per cent of the course, the school district receives funding from the Ministry, which is when the external contractor would also be paid.
After receiving approval, Findlay commented this is a wonderful opportunity for students to receive credits for provincially authorized courses that align with their passions and interests.