Rural Reflections #5

Place Conscious Learning and Student-Led Inquiry

I have experienced rural education from both a student’s perspective and a teacher candidate’s perspective. As a UBC West Kootenay Teacher Education Program student, I have had the opportunity to observe rural teaching in BC classrooms from Edgewood, to Crawford Bay. Each visit was met with welcoming and eager teachers and genuinely enthusiastic students. Without exception, it appeared that each student truly wanted to learn and be at school. Stunned by the overwhelming student enthusiasm, I began to search for reasons that could help me better understand how the teachers in small, rural schools were able to successfully foster enthusiasm for learning and school in each of their students. Although, each classroom I visited involved different teaching strategies, I noticed common threads between each classroom. These threads included adventurous teachers who truly love what they do and who are willing to take risks, and serve as compassionate guides. As such, they facilitate students’ learning through place-conscious learning and student-led inquiry projects.

My observation in Terry Taylor and Gary Parkstrom’s Grade 10 to 12 English and History 12 classes at Lucerne Elementary-Secondary School, located in New Denver, BC, provided me with a glimpse into how to foster student enthusiasm for learning and school. It is my belief that rural schools provide teachers with a greater opportunity to get to know each student both inside and outside of the classroom. Having spent time to get to know their students, Terry and Gary identified their students’ keen interest in filmmaking and passion for making a difference. With this information in mind, this team of teachers set out to develop a cross-curricular project centered on the theme “a place of peace and belonging.” Using this central theme, students developed an inquiry, connecting their investigations as to what makes the world a better place. More specifically the students looked at what makes New Denver and the Slocan Valley special for so many different groups of people. With the help of grant money, Terry, Gary and their students were able to collaborate with Vancouver-based documentary film makers Moira Simpson and Lisa Nielsen to develop short documentary films to answer their inquiry focuses and demonstrate their learning.

To successfully complete the project, students ventured into their community and connected with several community members who could help them answer their inquiries. The enthusiasm students showed for this project was evident because they arrived well before the start of the school day, worked through their breaks, and continued their work after school without complaint. Furthermore, when I spoke with students about their films, it was obvious they were passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter and project process. Once the films were complete, the school opened its doors for a public film viewing. This viewing furthered the learning process of each student because they had the opportunity to share their learning with the community, express their gratitude towards the community members who assisted them with their projects, and further advance the already healthy relationship between the school and the community.

Although this film project only illustrates one way in which teachers can use their passion for teaching, willingness to take risks, and ability to serve as compassionate guides who facilitate student learning through place-conscious learning and student-led inquiry projects, it is now apparent to me how important each of these components are in fostering enthusiasm for learning and school in each student. These components also allow teachers to better connect the curriculum to student’s interests, and improve students’ ownership over their education by matching their teaching practices to student interests.

It is my hope, as a future teacher, that I too will be able to share my enthusiasm for learning by integrating place-conscious learning and student-led inquiry projects into my teaching practice, so that I can foster enthusiasm for learning and school in each of my students.

Melissa Dalgaard, WKTEP Teacher Candidate, 2012-13

Rural Reflections #4

Outdoors With Monica Nissen

We have had the pleasure of having Monica Nissen, Wildsight’s education program manager lead us in the ‘Get Outdoors’ and ‘Below Zero’ programs. After returning from our winter break we got outdoors for a day of snowshoeing at Strawberry Pass near
Rossland. The day was full of educational activities and of course lots of snow!

Sarah McQueen, WKTEP Teacher Candidate, 2012-13

Rural Reflections #3

Two Student Teachers’ Perspectives

Studying and practicing to become a teacher in one’s hometown is a dream for most people who grow up in a rural area. Miranda Bella and Stephanie Mervyn are two student teachers living this dream. Miranda and Stephanie are attending the West Kootenay Teacher Education program at Selkirk College in Castlegar, BC. The West Kootenay Teacher Education Program allows these students to graduate with a UBC Education Degree, all while reaping the benefits of living in their hometown. Miranda and Stephanie grew up together and both graduated from J.L. Crowe Secondary School in Trail, BC. They both highly value their education and upbringing in this rural community, and have now returned to share their values with future generations, and teach in their hometown.

While studying at WKTEP, the girls enrolled in EDCP 331 – a social studies course aimed at Elementary School Teachers. Miranda and Stephanie are both in the Secondary cohort, but took this course as an elective. Within this course, they were able to visit many rural schools in the West Kootenays, including Lucerne School, Edgewood, Crawford Bay, as well as attending a Pro-D day in Burton. The community that was established within these schools was phenomenal – each school was filled with mature students and remarkable educators who all shared a very close bond. At Lucerne School, Miranda and Stephanie observed blended learning in action and felt right at home throughout their entire visit. All of the students were so close with one another and the teachers played an integral role in building community within the school. The older students seemed to play a mentor/mentee role with the younger students, which made this school community so unique and special. There was a major emphasis on place consciousness and understanding the community of New Denver, and each student graduated from this small school with great leadership for future careers, and many other lifelong skills.

The experience of visiting these rural communities and their schools has been invaluable for Miranda and Stephanie. Each field trip has provided the girls with a new and fresh perspective on rural education. Not only do Miranda and Stephanie benefit from gaining perspectives of those who live and work in the area, but they are fortunate enough to be surrounded by close friends and family during an intensive yearlong program. The benefits are endless!

Miranda Bella and Stephanie Mervyn, WKTEP Teacher Candidates, 2012-13

Rural Reflections #2

Inspiring Unique Moments of WKTEP:
Sarah’s Visual Journal Entry: New Denver Beach

Watercolour paint and drawing ink, Visual Journal Entry, Sarah McQueen 2013

The inland waterfront in New Denver was a pleasant reminder for me of home on the
coast with the large mountains, dark waters, and a rocky shoreline. Our first visit to New
Denver was an overnight stay on our way to a professional development day with School District 10 (Arrow Lakes) held in Burton with the energetic and motivational duo, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser. Our second visit was passing through it on our way to and from Edgewood Elementary School, staying overnight in Nakusp before returning the next day. We went to New Denver two more times to visit Lucerne Elementary Secondary School facilitated by Terry Taylor. Once to observe the multi-age classes and the second time to visit the secondary students as they were working with filmmakers to make documentaries in an ArtsStarts grant program.

Sarah McQueen, WKTEP Teacher Candidate, 2012-13