Grade 9 Experimental Learning

Friday, December 09, 2016 - By: Mr. David McCarthy

Since midterm, an experimental Saturday morning timetable has been operating for our Grade 9s. They were presented with a number of project-based options and signed up for the one that most appealed to their interests. A Brentwood teacher ran each of the activities and designed things to try and provide an active, engaging, and experiential two and a half hour class. After three of these Saturdays (with one still to come) the results look very promising.

In the “Engineering” option, students are nearly finished building go-karts they have designed and put together with cross-country coach and handyman Rob Rose aided by Head of Facilities, Tom Shadlock and physics teacher, Giselle Lawrence. These soap-box carts are due for trials next Saturday and students are excited about the prospect of racing them down the many hills we have on campus.

Our “Environment” option, run by yours truly, has taken students on field trips to Goldstream to see the salmon run, to a Garry Oak preserve to plant native species, and to the Cowichan Bay Estuary to learn about the local wildlife, marine species and the watershed. History, geography and some First Peoples perspectives, in addition to biology, have featured in the learning taking place in each of the trips.

Our “Technology” option has brought students under the wing of IT guru and woodwork specialist Brent Lee who has the students experimenting with mini-computers called “Raspberry Pi’s.” These students have learned programming skills as well as designing and building their own unique project. These range from a weather station to a drone, computer controlled, and in many cases built using 3D printing.

Students inclined more towards the creative arts were given the option of soapstone carving with art teacher David Hunwick who has them constructing animal sculptures using First Nations designs. Finally, students interested in drama were introduced to “The Settlers” by Mrs Widenmaier who takes them through a reconstruction of the great journey westward on wagon trains. Students collaborate to solve authentic problems that settlers would have faced on their journey and the whole morning is kept “in character” as an ongoing improvisational story.

With projects of this nature, we are not only exploring how our Saturday mornings might look in a revised model, but also at how we might approach learning in a number of different ways within our disciplines and indeed beyond the confines of one discipline.

More details of these activities can be found in the Brentwood News and on the Blog.  

Mr. David McCarthy

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