At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of visiting Dog Creek School. Dog Creek is similar to many of our remote schools. With twenty students in Kindergarten to Grade 10, the challenges of differentiated instruction are immense as there are often only one or two students in each grade. How does one ensure that the only student in Kindergarten is provided with a play-based literacy-rich environment while also ensuring that the two Grade 10 students are able to take all of the courses needed for the Graduation Program so that they can successfully transition to Lake City Secondary next year and graduate two years later?
One very successful way of providing the education that every student needs and deserves is to use project-based learning. On the day I visited the school, I had the pleasure of being in the audience as the students in the elementary class were sharing for the first time about group projects they had been working on for the previous weeks. Each of four groups created a project related to the four spokes of the Medicine Wheel – the emotional, the physical, the spiritual, and the mental (knowledge).
As opposed to telling you how the projects turned out, it makes far more sense to show you. Please notice the range in ages of the students in the photos below. While each student was expected to participate in both the creation and the presentation of the project, students were expected to take part in ways that were appropriate to their grade level, but in all ways, the students were a team, and no one felt like they were any less important to the creation of the project than the student who was working alongside them.
For representing the emotional spoke of the Medicine Wheel, students and their sponsor Sandra Archie talked about, and acted out, how emotions are an important part of our lives, fundamental to our well-being. Then students and their sponsor decided to write a song to share what they had learned. They chose a song because music connects us to our emotions.
The group representing the physical spoke of the Medicine Wheel thought in terms of what exists in the world that supports us and keeps us alive and well. The students and their sponsor Lillian Harry looked at the whole year to see how each season makes new foods and materials available to us, how each must come in its own time, and how each is connected to what comes before and after it in the year. The drum is a tangible form of the physical world.
Students and their sponsor Louise Harry who were studying the spiritual spoke of the Medicine Wheel looked much more closely at the cultural traditions that have given us the sq’ilye (sweat house), and how central it is to our well being, both as individuals and in our community. Students spoke to a band member who has built a sq’ilye and visited the site. They learned so much about the importance of each of the elements of the squ’ilye, which they had always taken for granted or hadn’t ever noticed before.
The group researching the knowledge spoke of the Medicine Wheel reflected on how learning and knowledge keep us alive and connect us to our culture. Principal Jane Hancock was their sponsor and had each student think about 0ne skill they have been taught that helps them to survive (hunt, fish, preserve food, use horses). The students then made a village model, showing the activity, to see how they are all connected closely to us and where we live. This group included school as part of that heritage of knowledge.
My thanks to Principal Jane Hancock and her staff and students for the wonderful day. Like many of our small schools, Dog Creek School feels as much like a family as it does a school!
I invite feedback and comments to any of my blog entries. As the administrator of the blog, I approve all comments before they hit the public domain. While I do not mind comments that disagree with my point of view, I will not post comments that I deem to be inappropriate, those which are personal attacks, or those which refer to specific personnel. I also will not post comments from anonymous or nicknamed sources. While one of my goals for this blog is to open a dialogue, it needs to be a safe environment for everyone involved. Thanks for considering this before making a comment. – Mark