Today was a very inspiring day – we had a tour of PSII school downtown (Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry ). Jeff, the principal, took us around and talked about the way the school operates, the budgeting involved, the schedule and personalization of learning. They have co-operation with the YMCA across the street for the PE class, which is also personalized so it can be group or private, and can change as they choose. Their teacher is a Cirque de Soleil style performer so some classes take on performance and art as well as physical movement. Students build their learning around their own inquiry – what they are interested in. Through chemistry a girl is making her own make up, a boy is making and recording music, people are using the 3D printer to create items, they are designing film and video work…the list goes on. All while learning what is in the curriculum for BC students.
There are some group discussions and classes and a huge room full of desks where students collaborate with each other on projects, and a quiet room where they can have privacy or just a quiet space to work. There is a music studio room complete with several instruments, a video room for creating film work, a science lab, and so on. I kept thinking that I wished I had been introduced to this kind of learning when I was young. It took me so long to think for myself, to be unafraid to ask questions for fear of being judged or scolded. If I had an environment where questions were encouraged and where learning had real world application, maybe school would not have been so daunting for me. Maybe I could have been thriving in a place where students are taken seriously and taught to go after what they want.
What I love is that the students are learning autonomy. They are self-directing and self-regulating. They are discovering who they are and how they learn best in different situations. Because of the informal structure, they learn to listen to themselves as to when they need a break, when they need quiet, when they need to challenge. They are learning how to use resources around them, how to ask for help when they come up against something they don’t know. This autonomy is so important! Kids should be leaving school feeling confident in their own self understanding. They should have had the time to discover how to treat their own needs so that they can be successful when they leave home and go to university or go to work or create a business. Knowing yourself is imperative in any relationship – we have to be able to say what we want and why, and recognize when we need a break or need to just sit down and breathe. We need to be able to read other people’s body language and be open to their ideas and intentions – this is what prepares students for life after grade 12 graduation. This is the biggest inspiration I took from the school today: not only are they learning pertinent skills and gaining knowledge about what is in our BC curriculum, but they are learning to function well as a society and learning how to discipline themselves. I can imagine that these kids are going to go out and start business and be world changers because they know how to harness ability and resource and how to make learning happen for themselves. PSII is a gift to them.