January 11 – 22, 2016
After our initial bonding activity during the False Creek walking tour, our group sent out our first email to School Distrct 27. While there were some minor delays in communication, we were able to schedule our first meeting with the School District for this Thursday, January 21st. As we waited to hear back from our community partner, we conducted our secondary research about School District 27 and the Williams Lake community. By doing further research, we hoped to brainstorm potential research topics and questions for our project.
In order to garner a better understanding about our community partner, we spent time reading through their website, where we learned more about the people they serve, their mandate, and the strong push towards creating unification between the School Board and the various First Nations bands throughout the Chilcotin and Cariboo districts. In addition, we explored the blog and read the white paper created by last year’s SD27 research group. This gave us a better understanding of the educational environment of Williams Lake, and allowed us to get an idea of potential research directions that we could pursue.
As we prepare for our first meeting with the School District, we have brainstormed some questions to ask our community partner. Below are some questions that we hope to discuss with Mark Thiessen, the superintendent of School District 27.
- SD27 hosts an annual First Nations Role Model contest, which appoints two students of Aboriginal identity as winners each year, for being the top well-rounded students, that exemplify excellent academic and service within the community of Williams Lake. How does this program impact the community of First Nations students? For example: does it encourage them to strive for higher goals and achievements? What are the key contributing factors to success for First Nations students in school? How does their cultural identity play a role in this?
- The outdoor education program hosted by SD27 has demonstrated the benefits of experiential learning for the students as well as the community of Williams Lake. In what ways can outdoor education be a feasible method of promoting nature conservation and environmental sustainability? How does such a program change these students’ perspectives on sustainable development? How does such a program benefit students in comparison to education in much larger cities?
We are really excited to meet our community partner on Thursday. We hope to solidify our research question and proposal by next week, so check back for more updates!
Working with the William’s Lake School District seems like a great project, and your team seems to be off to a great start! In particular, I found your second question very interesting. Will your team be working on an outdoor education program? As my team is working on the William’s Lake Community Forest, I wonder if/ hope that the community forest will be part of the outdoor education program. If so, it would be great to not only get the kids out in the forest, but also learn about how the community forest works. Looking forward to hearing about your project this term!
Hi Alison! We just had our first Skype call with our community partner yesterday and it seems like we’ll be working with Skyline Alternate School. They do offer an outdoor education program, which seems to be running fairly well. Our community partner expressed an interest in understanding the motivations of students who choose to attend an alternative school, and identifying the ways in which they could better accommodate their needs. We’ll be speaking to the principal of Skyline soon, so we will try to find out more about their outdoor education program!
Your topic sounds really interesting, and I am looking forward to following your blog as your research progresses. I am interested in knowing more about the outdoor education program, and if it is exclusively for Aboriginal students or if it is something that all the students partake in? What are the land-based learning activities?
I am not sure if this is universal across the province, but I live in North Vancouver and at my daughter’s school she goes to First Nations cultural classes through the school, just as I did when I was a student in school. While these classes are great, I think it would have been much more beneficial if all students could attend instead of being exclusively for First Nations. In my daughter’s case, she is taken out of regular class time with all the other students to participate in her First Nations class. During this time she misses valuable information in the regularly scheduled class time, ends up behind and has homework. Although she really enjoys the classes she feels awkward leaving her dominantly non-Native class to participate, and it creates tensions in her class because the other students don’t get a chance to make the artwork that she does in her First Nations class. I am wondering if this also happens in School District 27 and if it does, what are the implications of separating students like this?
Hi Courtenay! I believe the outdoor education program at Skyline Alternate School is open to all of the students. Our team spoke to the superintendent of the school district yesterday, and were able to get a brief overview of the program. We were told that it offers the opportunity to participate in various outdoor activities such as mountain biking, and incorporates First Nations heritage activities as well.
From my understanding, Skyline Alternate offers students a more flexible schedule than regular schools. I am also curious to know if they offer separate classes for First Nations students, and what their experiences are like. Our team will be speaking to the principal of Skyline Alternate next week, so hopefully we will be able to learn more about their classes and programs. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
It seems that while you guys have experienced delays in contacting your community partner, it also has given you guys some time to do some independent research and initial reflecting which was probably very useful in your first conversations today with your community partner! It seems like a great opportunity to be able to work with and alongside SD27 towards better education programs. Will you guys also be working directly with the youth in the district that you are researching as well? It would be great to hear from the experiences of the youth but also important to keep in mind, as we have reflected upon lots in class, our presence as researchers and how they might respond to our intentions and research.
Thank-you for your interest in our project. We have now had our first meeting with our community partner, the Superintendent of SD27, and we are happy to say that we have been able to gain a better understanding of the expectations that we need to fill. We are planning to expand on the work done last year with a school called Skyline Alternate, which is a non-conventional, smaller-class size school, that allows students to have a learning schedule that is more flexible that typical high school schedules in BC. We do plan on working with the students from Skyline to garner a better understanding of their experience as students there, with some that travel extremely long distances to get to school. In specific we hope to create a model for a survey or program that SD27 can use to gather data from the students at Skyline annually for their record. I hope that answers your question!
Like Courtnenay and Alison, I think the project should unfold to be very interesting. I would be interested to know what impact the award has had on the students who have won it in the past. For example, has the award encouraged them to continue with their academic learning and service within the community, beyond their school years?
Thanks for your remarks! The winners from 2014 for the First Nations Role Model Contest were definitely students that had been recognized for their outstanding achievements academically. One of the winners indicated that he had plans to pursue post-secondary education. The other winner was nominated as a candidate for the Learning to Lead BC Leadership Development Program, which held a conference in Vancouver. I would definitely be interested in speaking with SD27 more about learning how this program impacts and inspires winners and their peers to pursue higher education and a greatly involvement with their own First Nations culture, heritage, and the wider community!
Thank you for sharing this to us team School District 27! I was most interested in the questions that you proposed in week two, particularly the reasons why you were interested in them. Do the questions relate to the goals of the school district, the needs of the community, personal interests? I am always interested in understanding the reasoning behind what is being asked and I would love to understand what your team’s thoughts were while formulating these questions.
Great work and I can’t wait to hear stories from you all working at the school!
Hi Marcus! Thanks for your question! I think we have made a lot of progress and changes since this group upgrade, which is great news! I believe at that time we were still trying to get in contact with our community partner. We decided to do more independent research through secondary online sources. These questions developed from many of the articles and reports we read. Although we have decided to take a slightly different direction that builds on from the work of last year’s group, I believe it’s interesting how we as individuals highlighted these questions as potential areas to explore based on our own past experiences, interests and values. I’d love to re-answer your question again in our next group update when we talk about our new question – as I believe it ties into a lot of the areas your suggested, such as the current needs of our community partner, but also our mix of interests in this field. I’ll be sure to use some of your points to reflect on our research question while writing our next post, thank you!
The questions that you proposed have really peaked my interest, considering that education has such a fundamental effect on a community in terms of social sustainability. I am looking forward to hearing the exact direction that you choose. In terms of the outdoor education program, I wonder if you would also consider the potential health impacts of such an option for the children in the community (both physical and mental health). Such programs inspire me because of the potential they hold in terms of fostering a connection between youth themselves and between youth and the natural environment that surrounds them, strengthening community ties to land. In terms of the recognition of Indigenous students, I would also be curious to understand how this places them in relation to students with non-Indigenous backgrounds in the school/community. I would be interested to hear what kind of relationships form, if the school district is aware of tensions between cultural groups, and how these may be addressed. All the best for your continuation!
Hi Adele, thanks for your comment! I completely agree, learning about the outdoor education program definitely sparked a whole range of ideas and questions on how our regular education system can be challenged to cater to the needs of a much larger spectrum of learning methods and abilities. It also made me think about some of the many benefits that Williams Lake possesses in comparison to large schools in big cities. Our group has decided to focus more of our research with the Skyline Alternate School, which is an alternative education program to the regular high school system. However, if I am not mistaken the Skyline Offsite Alternate School is partnering up with K-12 Innovation Partnership in a program called the First Nations Outdoor Education Program. I don’t know much about this currently, so I don’t want to give you false information, but I think it will be interesting to see how an alternative education can help provide some aspects of the areas we wrote about in this post, particular in relation to the land and people of Williams Lake. We will definitely be discussing more of the programs that Skyline has to offer during our next meeting with our partner, and will hopefully have more to share with you on this soon!