There are some really innovative program offered at my university, many of which I have/will take part in. My initial major, Interactive Arts + Technology, involves a trip to Seattle for one course and most course use group projects and hand on applications instead of exams and mid-terms. I just auditioned for the acting program (aka: BFA Major in Theatre Performance) which is also highly immersive. I love that when I go to an acting class I learn so much about life and humanity just by observing other people and reflecting on my own experience. Yay!
Outside of these “special” programs there are also some courses which are quite innovative. Next semester I am taking SFU’s Semester in Dialogue! According to their site…
The Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue addresses what we believe is the principal challenge for contemporary education: to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility, encourage their passion to improve Canadian society, and develop innovative intellectual tools for effective problem solving. Each semester we develop an original and intensive learning experience that uses dialogue to focus student education on public issues.
Our topic is Sustainable Food Systems and after my studies in permaculture I am quite excited to explore this topic. We have already planned a camping trip for our first week to visit a farm on Vancouver Island! Cool!
SFU also has some really cool geography courses that go on trips for learning, in addition to field studies (such as ItaliaDesign) and exchange opportunities. And I have a couple friends that did an experiential learning course called The Change Lab. I am so lucky to attend a school with so many opportunities!
Thinking back on it, I have had a number of alternative education experiences in my lifetime. In elementary school I was identified as “gifted” and received special support throughout my education as a result. In grade three I got to be part of the “challenge” program which basically meant I got to skip class once a week and the principal would drive me to another school where I got to learn about a special topic with other kids in the program. My topic was circus! In grade 6 I did some special testing and was accepted into Surrey’s first ever MAC class where I stayed for a few months before returning to my “home” school. It was really cool to connect with other kids who learned the same way I did. I am still friends with some of them today! Then in high school I considered joining Inter-A (a largely self-paced learning environment with independent research opportunities) when I entered high school, but I had already established friends and volunteer commitments at my home school so I chose to stay where I was. At my home school we had a gifted coordinator and about once a semester we would meet with her, and the other gifted students in our year to discuss our “issues”. I really valued the opportunity to meet with other kids who were “like me” and I always thought we had a special bond. We all got to make Independent Education Plans (IEPs) and the coordinator tried to put us in classes with other gifted kids, and tried to support us in doing special projects and other initiatives. I got to skip one year of high school social studies through this method. I was also a year ahead in Math. Online courses were another opportunity I took advantage of. I took English 11 online and some other courses later on (Math 12 and Chem 12 to upgrade my marks) through Surrey Connect. I also recall a district Gifted Education Coordinator (staff person). She supported me in joining a gifted environmental conference planning committee. I got trained to be an SFU Philosopher’s Cafe facilitator as a grade 10 student which was pretty cool. I am realizing that I always felt really connected to other “gifted” students and educators. I think it was my idea that we were somehow the same and had something in common if only through or labelling.
In my own city we have the discovery school…
Discovery School is a unique program of choice within the Surrey School District. The school draws students from around Surrey and other parts of the Lower Mainland. Approximately sixty percent of the students come to Discovery from outside the Whalley area. This is a public school, and there are no tuition fees.
Classrooms are free of clutter. There are no desks, tables or chairs. Toys, books, manipulatives and other equipment are stored on shelves lining the rooms. This uncluttered environment allows for maximum flexibility in arranging small groups for a variety of activities and, most importantly, allows the whole group to sit in a circle, which encourages inclusiveness. Students’ artwork, and other art related to the themes being studied, is treated with respect; mounted and hung on the walls of the classrooms and in the front hall. Otherwise, walls are generally clear and free from distractions. Even the playground reflects the ideas of cooperation, imagination and tradition. Along with the common adventure playground, Discovery has ‘logs and rocks’, string games, hand games and other areas where children learn to play timeless games with their peers.