I teach Kindergarten. In doing so, my job is quite different from that of a secondary school teacher, and yet it’s not. We all have students to teach, and we all want our students to be successful. So, at the invitation of David Truss, the Vice-Principal of the Inquiry Hub Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC, I spent the day in high school. I believed that I have much to learn from them, and I was right.
I had heard great things about the Inquiry Hub, most recently the news that they had won the Ken Spencer Award for a Innovation in Teaching and Learning. The amazing thing about that award is not only winning in itself, which is a great accomplishment, but what the school is doing with the $7,500.00 prize. The teachers and administration are giving that money to the students to fund their inquiry projects. That’s right…THE STUDENTS. And from what I saw today, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate or effective way to spend the money. The students put great thought into their proposals for spending “their” money and I can only imagine the ownership and pride they will take in the learning that happens with what they purchase.
I was given a tour of the school by Kassandra, a grade 9 student who explained how the school was organized. Class organization, use of space and time. She is a great ambassador for her school. She answered all of my questions and helped me start to understand the culture of the school community.
It was interesting to see how the students decided to go about their work…some in groups, some by themselves, some chatting and collaborating, some working quietly. Certainly not unlike any other classroom, but perhaps more independent and self-directed. Having a good sense of self-regulation would be a must at Inquiry Hub, as much of the students’ work is self-directed with guidance from their teachers. There was a music studio being built. Music composition was the focus of another inquiry. One group was designing a mural for the side of the school and another was working on short story writing.
A student named Owen showed me the Inquiry project that he and his twin brother had worked on…assembling a 3-D printer. He excitedly told me about how they logged their hours of work and built the entire thing from scratch, then proudly showed me some of the things they had printed. I told Owen that he needs to share what he has done. Here is his blog about his project: http://3dprinting.inquiryhub.org . Documenting your process and sharing with others is a big part of learning.
Another student named Meghan told me about her inquiry project about special effects make-up. Unfortunately the Internet was down at the time, so she couldn’t share the photos of her work with me. Her project reminded of the Independent Directed Study course my son, Matthew is designing next year, but instead of make-up effects, he will be studying practical effect character design.
One student named Jay did a project where he designed a virtual piano using Leap Motion technology. It was amazing to see his fingers dancing in mid-air as the virtual piano played on his laptop!
One of the most noticeable projects at the Inquiry Hub is the Urban Garden. Today a concrete slab was being poured amongst the planter boxes so that the school could have an outdoor meeting space. The staff and students all placed handprints in the curing cement…a sign of true community. The benches and picnic tables that will be placed on that slab will, I am sure, be used often. The garden itself is an ongoing project by students Shauna, Sophia and Hannah. I found a YouTube video of the girls explaining their project…what a great idea! And I can’t wait to read the book they are writing to help me design a community garden at my school.
Remember how I said that the Ken Spencer Award money was being spent by the students? It was fun to see that in action when the girls who are planning a mobile kitchen for the school got to pick up the supplies they had budgeted (and collected coupons for) from Bed Bath and Beyond. I am sure that some of the produce from the urban garden project will make its way into the mobile kitchen. What a great blending of learning projects!
Not only did I get to observe and learn from the teachers and students at the Inquiry Hub, I also got to share a little bit of what I have been working on for the past eight months. Blog posts are upcoming on exactly what I have been doing, but today I shared with them how FreshGrade e-portfolio system could be a good way of collecting evidence of their students’ learning and sharing that with their parents and eventually (hopefully) exporting that as a portfolio to share with potential universities and employers.
It was an absolute pleasure to spend the day at the Inquiry Hub. Thank you, David, for inviting me to share in your space. The learning community you have at the Inquiry Hub is very special.