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IN­SPIRED BY ELECTIVES

Cre­ative out­lets help mo­ti­vate stu­dents.

- Kathryn Boothby Online Courses · Education · e-Learning

Cre­ative electives can in­spire kids to reach be­yond the norm to dis­cover some­thing new and ex­cit­ing, whether they are in grade school or high school.

At Kingsway Col­lege School (KCS) in Eto­bi­coke, Ont., electives are manda­tory for stu­dents in grades six to eight. These classes are about learn­ing for the love of it rather than for credit, says An­drea Fanjoy, as­sis­tant head of aca­demics. For 10 con­sec­u­tive weeks, stu­dents spend a dou­ble les­son par­tic­i­pat­ing in sub­jects that range from cook­ing, in­ven­tion and the bat­tle­fields of Eu­rope to en­trepreneur­ship, wear­able tech­nol­ogy and even hip-hop dance.

KCS sees many ben­e­fits in of­fer­ing these types of broader learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to stu­dents. “It’s about de­vel­op­ing life-long learn­ers who are in­trin­si­cally mo­ti­vated and fu­elled by pas­sion for a par­tic­u­lar topic,” says Fanjoy. “Our electives pro­gram gives stu­dents the chance to choose what they want to learn and en­joy free­dom from the ex­ter­nal as­sess­ment typ­i­cally found at school.”

The cre­ative electives ap­proach does not only ben­e­fit stu­dents. Teach­ers at KCS are in­vited to in­tro­duce, risk-free, a sub­ject of their choice. That ex­per­i­men­ta­tion can of­ten lead to an elec­tive be­com­ing a per­ma­nent part of the school’s cur­ricu­lum. Cricket is one such ex­am­ple. “As part of the elec­tive, par­tic­i­pat­ing stu­dents had to teach the sport to a younger grade, which re­sulted in an au­then­tic learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one. Now, cricket is a reg­u­lar com­po­nent of the phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram,” ex­plains Fanjoy.

Cook­ing for a Cause, one of the most pop­u­lar electives at KCS, sees stu­dent go to a lo­cal cook­ing acad­emy to pre­pare meals for a youth shel­ter in the area. “Any­thing foodrelate­d is al­ways over-sub­scribed. The chil­dren just love to get their hands into it,” says Fanjoy. “It is also an ac­tiv­ity that helps build com­mu­nity out­side the school grounds.”

One of the more un­usual electives at KCS is a re­cently in­tro­duced pi­lot project called Go Ahead: Lead Your Learn­ing. Go Ahead is set up us­ing a de­sign-think­ing model to which stu­dents bring their big ideas. Some of those ideas can be star­tling or ex­tremely chal­leng­ing, such as build­ing a rocket launcher or mo­tor­ized go-kart. None­the­less, the school works with each stu­dent to help them try to ‘fig­ure it out’ and brings in out­side ex­per­tise as needed.

“The Go Ahead pi­lot has been a very pos­i­tive and re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for all in­volved,” says Fanjoy. “We have cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment where we are teach­ing our stu­dents the 21st cen­tury skills they will need through­out life such as cre­ativ­ity, re­spon­si­ble risk-tak­ing and deal­ing with pres­sure.”

Pres­sure of an­other kind is one of the fac­tors grade 12 stu­dents at the all-girls Trafal­gar Cas­tle School (TCS) in Whitby, Ont. are con­tend­ing with in the school’s unique univer­sity-level project man­age­ment elec­tive. In­tro­duced in the 2017/18 school year, the course in­cor­po­rates Marine Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy Ed­u­ca­tion (MATE) that helps stu­dents con­sol­i­date the skills needed to prob­lem-solve, de­sign, spec­ify and build un­der­wa­ter ro­bots for ocean ap­pli­ca­tion. It is also help­ing to break down bar­ri­ers for girls in STEM-re­lated sub­jects (science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics).

The six-month build pe­riod for the pro­gram al­lows for on­go­ing pro­to­typ­ing, test­ing and learn­ing as stu­dents work to­ward de­vel­op­ing such skills as com­puter pro­gram­ming and engi­neer­ing, says Chris Hux­ter, a math­e­mat­ics and physics teacher at TCS. That said, it is no easy task. “It would not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say there have been a thou­sand lessons learned about the com­plex­i­ties of build­ing an un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cle,” says Hux­ter. “The stu­dents have learned to be highly adapt­able and flex­i­ble in or­der to nav­i­gate the chal­lenges. Sep­a­rate groups work on the frame, chas­sis, cod­ing and elec­tron­ics. There is a lot of in­ter­de­pen­dency, which is what you see in the work­place.”

At an end-of-year com­pe­ti­tion with other stu­dents from around the globe, the 10-mem­ber TCS team en­gi­neer their aquatic ro­bot and morph into a com­pany to man­u­fac­ture, mar­ket and ‘sell’ their prod­uct.

The project man­age­ment elec­tive is not the only av­enue through which TCS girls are learn­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of ro­bots, how­ever. “We run ro­bot­ics pro­grams from grades five to 12,” notes Hux­ter. “In grades five and six it is taught in the class­room; grades seven and eight through ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties; and grades nine to 12 through ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, ro­bot­ics pro­gram­ming, and as an em­bed­ded part of other cour­ses at the school.”

OUR ELECTIVES PRO­GRAM GIVES STU­DENTS THE CHANCE TO CHOOSE WHAT THEY WANT TO LEARN AND EN­JOY FREE­DOM FROM THE EX­TER­NAL AS­SESS­MENT TYP­I­CALLY FOUND AT SCHOOL. — AN­DREA FANJOY, KINGSWAY COL­LEGE SCHOOL

WE ARE TEACH­ING THE 21ST-CEN­TURY SKILLS

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 ?? KINGSWAY COL­LEGE SCHOOL PHO­TO­GRAPH ?? Grade eight stu­dents at Kingsway Col­lege School pre­pare sand­wiches for a youth shel­ter in Cook­ing for a Cause.
KINGSWAY COL­LEGE SCHOOL PHO­TO­GRAPH Grade eight stu­dents at Kingsway Col­lege School pre­pare sand­wiches for a youth shel­ter in Cook­ing for a Cause.

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