When you work in a small, innovative school, you are always looking at the things that still need to be done. To use a sailing analogy, you are constantly tacking and maneuvering to adjust to the changing winds. This is easier to do in a ‘small ship’ and is often required to be done more than in a big (institutional) ship. So, you are continually looking at how to address needs of students, staff, parents, curriculum changes, adjustments to programs, new opportunities… and you often don’t get a chance to look back at what you’ve achieved, where you have traveled from. Instead you are just looking at possible destinations and figuring out your next adjustment to help you get there.
Three recent events provided me with opportunities to reflect on how far we have come. Two of the recent events held at Inquiry Hub Secondary School were a visit by Jan Unwin, Superintendent of Graduation and Student Transitions with BC Ministries of Education and Ministry of Advanced Education, and our Open House. The third event was a presentation at the British Columbia School Superintendents Association (BCSSA) Conference.
The visit by Jan Unwin:
This turned out to be a significant community event. We had an audience that included:
- Our students presenting about things happening at our school
- Our teachers sharing as well
- Parents, and prospective students and parents interested in our program
- District representation
- Community members (some that work with our students on programming and app development)
- A representative from Simon Fraser University admissions office
- Jan Unwin, Superintendent of Graduation and Student Transitions with BC Ministries of Education and Ministry of Advanced Education
We paired this with an unveiling of our student designed mural and our Little Free Library. Both of these emerged from grants written by students. Both of these embody what we want to see with respect to students having a vision and following up to achieve their goals.
This event also included a number of student presentations, sharing some of the unique and exciting things that we have going on at our school. These were elaborated on even further at our Open house a couple weeks later.
Here was our agenda:
Welcome Honoured Guests – Mr. Truss
At Inquiry Hub… – Mr. Sarte
Portfolio & Leap Motion technology – Jay
Robotics – Aaron
3D Printing – Liam & Owen
Forensic Mystery – Kassandra & Mackenzie
VoteVancouver.org – Laef
Longboard Knee Pads – Hazel
Sphero & Attendance App – Brandon & Josh
Little Free Library – Jenna
Garden & Mural – Hannah, Sophia, Shauna, & Nicole
Our Open House:
The day started with a group of Simon Fraser University education students, just coming off of their 5 week practicum, visit us. We took advantage of this to have our students rehearse for their presentations at our Open House. The SFU students asked some amazing questions and a few of them want to come back for a visit and spend the day with us. Unfortunately the way our school is set up, the Teacher Regulation Board won’t let us have practicum teachers because their ‘teaching time’, (time actually teaching a student at the ‘front of the class’), is too low. This so downplays the importance of the time our teachers spend as mentor/adviser/inquisitor/guide/tutor/inciter/questioner… roles that I think will redefine what teaching means in the next 20 years.
Later, at our Open House, we had 19 of our 52 students volunteer and of those 13 students presented. That’s 1/4 of our students sharing what they are up to with visitors! We had over 80 middle school students, parents and community members visit, to hear our story, as primarily told by our students. A lot of questions were asked, and most were answered by our students. As suggested by one of our students, we rotated presenters between 3 rooms, allowing for 3 sets of presentations, each with time to answer questions between rotations. This format allowed us to keep a quick pace while reducing the time spent with 80 people all trying to switch rooms at the same time.
After the presentations, students continued to give tours and answer questions, while Mr. Sarte and some students set up our ‘Fish Lab’ – Maker Space to allow for some interactive learning and experimenting with some of our ‘toys’ like Jay’s Leap Piano, and Spheros.
We also had the Dean of Education at SFU, Dr. Kris Magnusson, visit and I look forward to connecting with him again. It is connections like this, and Jan Unwin visiting, and their feedback, that helps to remind me that we are moving in a direction that educational leaders want to see education head to.
The BCSAA Presentation:
Between the above mentioned events, I had the privilege of presenting with Stephen Whiffin’s, at the British Columbia School Superintendents Association Conference. Not only did we present, we also created a comprehensive resource to go along with our presentation: Resources for the Inquiry Hub BCSSA 2015 Fall Conference Presentation.
These events provided me with an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in the last 3 and a half years. I know we have so much learning still to do, and that we will continue to make micro and major adjustments to our program as we embrace the new BC Curriculum in an innovative, flexible way that focuses on student directed inquiry and learning. But I will pause long enough to say that as much as we still have to do, we are getting a lot of things right!
At this time of year, I’m grateful to students, parents, teachers and district staff that have seen the promise of Inquiry Hub Secondary School, and who have supported us as we tack and maneuver our way through a progressive educational program that will continue to grow and foster innovative practices that support student centered, inquiry-based learning.