The in­de­pen­dent school dif­fer­ence

Four new trends in ed­u­ca­tion that make these schools stand out from the pack

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In­de­pen­dent schools have the abIl­Ity to cre­ate their own ar­eas of fo­cus, in order to of­fer a unique ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that their stu­dents won’t find in the pub­lic do­main. Within Toronto’s pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions, cer­tain trends are start­ing to emerge, rang­ing from tech-for­ward teach­ing, to an em­pha­sis on out­door ed­u­ca­tion. For a closer look at what’s part of the pro­gram, here are four trends that are tak­ing in­de­pen­dent schools by storm.

1 well­ness

Scrolling through in­de­pen­dent-school web­sites will in­evitably lead to one ma­jor buzz­word: well­ness. That’s be­cause more and more schools are in­sist­ing that the emo­tional well-be­ing of the stu­dents must be pri­or­i­tized in order for them to learn ef­fec­tively in a class­room en­vi­ron­ment. “We try to take an in­ten­tional ap­proach to so­cial and emo­tional learn­ing, char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and well­ness,” says Nicole Davies, as­sis­tant head of teach­ing and learn­ing at Montcrest School. “We know that, in order to learn well, you need to be able to have low anx­i­ety lev­els, you need to feel safe and you need to un­der­stand that you’re in a warm and nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We’re ac­tively think­ing about these is­sues in the class­room ev­ery day.”

2 en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion

Na­ture-based learn­ing has be­come a ma­jor theme in schools across Canada, as educators try to get kids off their screens and into the out­doors. “Get­ting kids into out­door ed­u­ca­tion set­tings is huge,” says Davies. “Our school has a re­searcher we em­ploy for na­ture-based learn­ing, and he does his best to work out­door ed­u­ca­tion into ev­ery as­pect of our cur­ricu­lum. For in­stance, stu­dents might be asked to grow po­ta­toes. Then they’ll be asked to mea­sure them in order to think about what price they could be sold for.”

3 A global per­spec­tive

The con­cept of be­ing a global cit­i­zen is top of mind for many pri­vate school educators. Fos­ter­ing a sense of cul­tural aware­ness through learn­ing a new lan­guage, or trav­el­ling to a dif­fer­ent coun­try, is in­cor­po­rated into many pri­vate school’s man­dates. “In­ter­na­tional­mind­ed­ness is key,” says Kar­rie We­in­stock, deputy prin­ci­pal of Branksome Hall. “It’s im­por­tant that our stu­dents learn how to look at an is­sue from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives and chal­lenge as­sump­tions they might have about other cul­tures.”

4 teach­ing with tech

As tech­nol­ogy evolves, ex­pec­ta­tions of how it can be used in the class­room con­tinue to ex­pand. Many schools are start­ing to adopt vir­tual tech­nol­ogy as a teach­ing aid, al­low­ing stu­dents to use VR head­sets to en­hance their learn­ing. “We have a lens of in­no­va­tion that goes over ev­ery­thing we do,” says We­in­stock. “Our stu­dents are able to use VR head­sets in cer­tain lessons—and that’s some­thing we’ll be look­ing to ex­pand mov­ing for­ward.”

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