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Big new plans as school year starts

SD48 rolls out Pathways to Learning while private school adds new options


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As students throughout the Sea to Sky corridor ready their backpacks with fresh, new binders, notebooks and pencils there's a new philosophy being knitted into the public school system.

Sea to Sky students will be entering classrooms on Tuesday, Sept. 3 that are evolving through the implementation of School District 48's Pathways to Learning Education Plan.

The district's superintendent of schools, Lisa McCullough, described the initiative as a way to create different results, adding that the education plan attempts to put greater emphasis on project-based learning, collaborative initiatives and the creation of resilient and adaptable information users.

"Rather than create students who are content rich, in other words they've memorized a lot of information, now we want to create students who are able to use information so they know how to evaluate information, leverage information, synthesize information," said McCullough.

This will mean more project-based learning initiatives where the 4,200 students in the school district will work in small teams on subjects being explored by the entire student body over a number of days with teachers acting more as facilitators and less as presenters of content to be memorized.

"In the past, most of the time in the classroom has been about teaching content and then when we had time we worked on the higher order skills like problem solving and decision-making and ethical use of information," said McCullough. "The best way to describe the Pathways to Learning is that has flipped around. Now the lion's share of our time in the classroom is going to be about learning as a process and students learning how to learn decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, hands-on learning (with) time to create and explore."

She noted that this means less time will be spent on teaching the core skills, but added that putting greater emphasis in non-traditional learning areas will strengthen those core skills.

"There still will be a focus on literacy and our core skills. Kids will still know how to read and write. We believe literacy will be stronger than ever because students will be engaged in something very purposeful and relevant to them," said McCullough.

The superintendent of schools said teachers fully support the initiative. Seventeen teachers were part of putting together the Pathways initiative and McCullough said more than 120 teachers gathered in Whistler on Tuesday to prepare themselves to deliver the Pathways philosophy.

Part of making school more engaging is allowing students to take a greater role in choosing what they want to work on and McCullough said students are being empowered to collaborate on things that matter to them.

"You will see fewer desks in rows," she said. "You will see students making things with their hands, you will see and hear about projects that are real, projects that are purposeful and authentic. So you'll see students engaged in going to city council meetings and working on a project that different city councils need done in their communities."

McCullough pointed to the Whistler students working on the single-use plastic bag issue, Signal Hill students building a new playground and Squamish students who want to create a nature playground as current examples of students learning through being involved in real world issues.