QC school adopts new style

  • Oct. 27, 2010 7:00 p.m.

The Living and Learning School in Queen Charlotte is introducing a new learning style to students. Inspired by visitors from a school in Surrey, principal and teacher Bobbi-Lee Chatelaine has developed an approach similar to Montessori schools, where independent learning at the child’s own pace is the norm. With students in grades ranging from Kindergarten to Gr. 6, the challenge is to keep everyone motivated to learn at their own level, she says. With the new independent learning method, students can work through a set of weekly goals at their own pace. “This is a huge change for us,” she said. Before, Gr. 1 and 3 students might do math together, but the younger students may find parts of the lesson challenging and the older ones were not being challenged enough. She’s now providing workbooks to let students cover their own grade’s standard BC curriculum, and she and other adult helpers are available to help those who need it and let those who don’t keep flying through their lessons. For Ms Chatelaine, the important aspect of this change is empowering children to chose their own course during the day. She says the students start their week with 13 goals and each day chose four to spend their time on. For example, in language arts students have independent reading, journal writing, as well as a writing task geared to the curriculum as goals. They can chose which to work on, but are still expected to complete each goal by the end of the week. Another incentive for changing the learning style was to make things more efficient. “It leaves more time to spend on independent creative projects,” she says. She is a big fan of the arts and wants the children to have creative time to express themselves. They get three half hour blocks per week to work on an ongoing project, allowing students to indulge in things they are interested in. She is also planning to include more of a focus on French this year. Last year they introduced French to students Gr. 5 and up and now they want to introduce French to the entire school. She said it will help students work at a stronger level by the time they get to the grades where French is mandatory. Right now the school has eight full-time students and five home-school students who join the group two days a week. She admits the number of full-time students is below the ideal, but hopes that a few more will enroll in the coming week. “Ideally we’d be in the high teens or have 20 kids,” she said. Ms Chatelaine says its great to have the home schoolers, as some parents and students struggle with how to access the social part of school, while learning at home. There was a bit of turnover at the start of the year, she says with two new students coming and four leaving. She hopes the changes and evolution of the school will attract more students. The students came up with “a bring your friend to school day” and will invite friends to visit the school on Monday (Nov. 1). Ms Chatelaine says the school will also offer an open house in November.