Author Archives: Cheng Yee Seah

Group Update #4: Refining our project & initial theoretical framework

February 1 – 12, 2016

In week 5, we met with Leo to talk about our ideas for the final project. Like other groups, Leo suggested that we narrow down our research question to something more specific. To refine our research question, we examined existing literature and case studies to gain a better understanding of the structure, goals and challenges of alternative education. A summary of our findings and key takeaways can be found on our Initial Theoretical Framework page, under the Research tab.

Our group has been in conversation about what are final project would look like, and we have initially decided that it would consist of three parts:

  • First, we will create an online survey that will be filled out prior to our arrival at Williams Lake. This survey will allow us to gain insight on the student demographics, and will serve as a springboard for what we will do during our time in Williams Lake.
  • Second, we plan to conduct focus groups to gain insight on the learning needs of the Skyline Students.
  • Third, we hope to create a video to promote more positive perceptions of Skyline Alternate School to the Williams Lake community.

As it may be difficult to manage and do justice to all three projects, Leo suggested that we find a way to combine the survey and video together. A potential idea is to replace the video with another form of data visualization, such as a word cloud, to display the results from our survey. Because our community partner is keen on conducting surveys with the students over the long term, it would be interesting to see if the word cloud could automatically update itself to publish live results. Once we refine our research question and focus of the initial surveys, we will gain a better sense of what our focus groups may look like.

In week 6, we had our second meeting with Mike, the principal of Skyline Alternate High School. One of the key points he wanted to point out in response to our blog post about Skyline is that, school space isn’t the issue but rather the lack of services and facilities  such as science labs, mental/woodworking shops, and a gymnasium, to provide a broader range of activities for students to choose from. He outlined and expressed his concerns that Skyline would like to address in regards to student experience and satisfaction. In particular he would like us to research:

  • What are the underlying pull factors that are attracting students to Skyline?
  • What are the push factors in mainstream high schools that are causing students to leave their former schools?
  • Was it their choice to come to Skyline? Or was it out of the student’s’ control?

He recommended that we could construct our survey into two parts, the first as a questionnaire that could be completed online with short multiple choice, yes/no responses, and the second a written portion through a more comprehensive part that enables students to express their personal experiences. We are still in the process of creating the questions and platform for conducting the services, which we hope to have done within the span of the next two weeks.

Next we discussed our aims to construct small focus group discussions with the students and we were wondering what the best way would be to divide the students up. Mike recommended that we read up on the four quadrants of social-emotional growth that students are categorized in at Skyline to form the basis of our understanding for establishing different groups. Here are the four levels of social-emotional growth:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
• poor attendance • good attendance (2 days/wk) • good attendance 3/4 days/wk • attending 4 days/wk consistently
• little participation • participates in activities • becoming a leader/role model in activities • leading activities / peer tutor
• unwilling to problem solve • beginning to discuss personal issues that are inhibiting success • having success working through personal issues • personal issues are decreasing and are no longer debilitating
• very little academics • some academics completed • completing courses • looking at graduation and planning post secondary training

According to their last reporting period (2012 – 2013), the composition of students were as following: Level 1 = 31%, Level 2 = 29%, Level 3 = 25%, Level 4 = 15%. This is certainly something we will take into consideration in our in the structural formation process of creating focus groups.

Over the reading break, we plan to refine our research question. Please check back for more updates!

Group Update #1: False Creek walking tour

January 5 – 8, 2016

For our walk we began our journey at Olympic Village station. From there we headed over towards the park along the edges of false creek. Along the way we noticed a huge plot of land that seemed to be occupied as a parking lot, with a huge old and run-down building that was extremely rusty and vacant. The faded sign appeared to read “Vancouver Mill Machinery…”. From our knowledge this was probably a log milling plant that was used during the years when Vancouver had a thriving industrial phase.


As we continued on, we came across a sign about South False Creek’s new habitat island, shoreline and inlet. To recognize the historical significance of the area to First Nations groups in the area, native trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses have been planted along the waterfront path and on the habitat island. These features were created to provide an ideal home for various flora and fauna, and acknowledges the importance of the area to non-human beings as well.

IMG_7841Moving forward we began to head in the direction of Main Street station. As we walked along the streets, we noticed a lot of newer housing developments that were being introduced to the neighborhood, many of which seemed to hold on to the name of “The Creek” as if to reminisce about the history of First Nations land and streams dedicated to fish and wildlife that live in and around these neighborhoods. In addition we walked passed several sewage drains that had pictures of fishes on them, to indicate the presence of fish and other sea creatures that live along the streams and shorelines.

IMG_7857As we walked towards China Creek, we noticed a shift in land use from primarily high multi-story apartments, offices and community spaces, to more specialized services like ski and snowboard shops, fine art services, and even a local brewery. In addition most of the housing appeared to be older, low-rise apartments and small single-story homes, some of which were vacant and had signs to indicate future redevelopment. Along the sidewalks of these neighborhoods, we noticed that there was a prominent environmental initiative set in place called “Green Streets”. This community garden program allows local residents to have their own green space and grow their own plants, flowers and even vegetables and fruits for more sustainable way of living. Another observation we noticed was the presence of a montessori preschool and a community centre that catered to many kids and youth. This could indicate that the surrounding neighborhood is relatively safe from crime and heavy flows of traffic.

When we finally arrived at the destination, China Creek, our initial reaction was that the park seemed quite underwhelming. Besides the playground and baseball field, there was just a huge plot of grass with a couple of people sitting on benches or walking around. In the past, the China Creek system was one of the largest drainage basins in Vancouver. It served as the home to various sea creatures, such as salmon, sturgeon, crab, mussels and clams. From the 1920’s to 30’s, the China Creek ravine was also used by the City as a garbage dump, until local residents complained about the smell and potential health risks.


As a “green solution”, we suggest keeping better maintenance of the “Green Streets” initiative. Throughout our walk we noticed that many of these “Green streets” were poorly kept and appeared as visual pollution. These green streets exhibit the potential to promote a stronger sense of community and neighbourhood responsibility, and also help preserve some of the histories of plants and species that may have existed many years ago. This can be achieved by providing informative plaque cards of important species and its historical links to the First Nations people and their land. Our  inspiration for this idea came from  similar information boards that we found at the start of our walking tour near Habitat Island. In addition, we suggest an increase in resources available to residents wishing to maintain these garden spaces. Although this initiative is volunteer driven, the creation of better signs could help indicate public accessibility, and also outline the action volunteers can  take to maintain this initiative. We believe this could be a cost-efficient and feasible solution that extends the current environmental preservation work currently near Habitat Island.

Our group thoroughly enjoyed this walking tour activity. It enabled us to realize the smaller details in our surroundings that we often miss when we are commuting and in a rush to get to places. It is so easy to take our land and space for granted, without realizing its historical significance and the impact we have on its fauna species and biodiversity. Through this activity, we were able to learn more about each other but also understand the importance of local community partners, in areas such as Williams Lake.