Yesterday, EDCI 336 had the opportunity to go downtown and visit The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. It is a high school where students direct their own learning through the inquiry of topics that interest them. Jeff Hopkins, the principle, gave us a wonderful introduction to the school and how it operates to fully support the learner through their individualized educational journey. I was in awe leaving and was very impressed with all my observations and conversations with students there.
I had the opportunity to personally talk to two students who were very happy to engage in conversation and discuss their learning journey at PSII. First, a student who did the accelerated entry program into UVIC last term talked about his experience. While multitasking with playing the guitar, one of his inquiries, he discussed his experience attending this high school, and how it has prepared him for post secondary. He said that this high school was an easy adjustment for him as previously he had attended Selkirk Montessori. He appeared to be very self motivated, and thrived in this setting. Aspects of the school he openly talked that he would like to change was the social aspect, and the school spirit. As it is a smaller community, you are not open to meeting the same amount of people as you are in a traditional school, and there are no school sports or big activities to bring out the spirit/community. After this, I talked with a young fashion designer who was creating patterns for a collection she plans to launch in May. She works on this everyday at school and it gives her credits for courses such as art and entrepreneurship. She moved from Oak Bay high school to PSII as it was a place where she could just focus on her passion and work towards achieving her goals at her pace. In her own time, she learns to sew and looks for materials to create her designs. It was very interesting that her inquiry goes beyond school and leads into not only her extra-curricular activities, but her full career.
The well-being of the students is something that is acknowledged at par with their learning. They have a quiet room where students can go to relax, de-stress, and just take a break from the business of their days. The students inside let me quietly go in and look around. It was a very relaxing ambiance with signs that showed steps to mindful breathing, and meditation. I can see how a school like this would be extremely beneficial to students that are overwhelmed by the traditional school system as the teachers are very supportive in working with the learner and their timeline for deadlines. This takes away stress and pressure, increasing motivation and interest.
Their steps to an inquiry process gave me inspiration and guidance towards my own passion project, and gave me ideas as to how I can further my question and learn more about it. There are many signs around the school that state the steps to a good inquiry and how to follow through until the end successfully. Below is one I saw in the hallway that was very informative: