An experimental learning program carried out this year in a high school in the interior of B.C. could be what the face of education will look like at Lake Cowichan Secondary School in the future.
On the last professional development day, ten LCSS teachers and their principal, Nicole Boucher, had a chance to observe first-hand what is known as a “Blended Learning” program, when they travelled to Rossland, to visit its secondary school in February.
“We took a lot away from the trip,” confirmed Boucher, “And now we’re looking at what we can incorporate into our program here in Lake Cowichan.”
The attraction of Rossland Secondary School (RSS), she explained, is that it is a school with the same configuration as LCSS — Grades 6 to 12 and about 300 students. Although RSS hosted the pilot program this year, it may be the last, according to an article in the Trail Rossland News. It too, is a secondary school that is facing change and next year they say the top three grades will be bussed down to Trail.
In the meantime, the school accepted the challenge of trying out the program, which in turn, drummed up a lot of interest from other schools around the province, especially from those in districts where they are trying to offer a variety of programs in a smaller school setting, such as is the case at LCSS.
“There are a lot of exciting options, where we will be able to offer courses we’ve never offered before,” Boucher said about the potential of the program. “But first and foremost, we want what is best for learning and best for the kids.”
At Rossland, Boucher says they really involved the community as part of the program, and that is something they want to do at LCSS.
“Two important things for us were: a desire to have more connection with the community, and to offer courses through project-based learning,” she said. “We have a number of community groups we’ve been talking to, and we hope to be able to set something up where if a student is working on a project in the community, he or she will get credits.”
The principal and the staff will work together over the weeks to come, and towards the end of April, they plan on giving a formal presentation of what the program will look like to students and parents.
“We’re calling it ‘Voice and Choice,’” she explained. “It’s all about taking the basic learning needs and incorporating them into the current technical opportunities, be it via phones, iPads, or computers.”
According to RSS principal Karen Lavender, initially there had been some resistance to the changes brought on by Blended Learning. However, Lavender noted that the provincial exam results at the end of the first semester more than met provincial expectations, with students in four out of five exams doing better than the district, public school and provincial averages. And, she says the feedback from other schools who have come to see how the model works has been positive.
The trip and the visit gave LCSS teachers and Boucher a chance to look at a concrete program — one that is actually working — and to form their own opinions. Decidedly, the consensus is that by incorporating some of the features of the Blended Learning program, LCSS can provide students with more educational choices.